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Relatable Characters

By Ane Mulligan

Is your character one you either like or at least relate to?
Nobody truly likes Scarlet O’Hara, but nearly everyone relates to her on some level. The protagonist needs to have relatable or endearing flaws and quirks.

Does the characterization remain constant?Chapel Springs Survival
After the peak of the character arc, the character may become sensitive to their main flaw, but they are still the same person. Denise Hildreth did an outstanding job with this in Hurricanes in Paradise. Her MC was a hardnosed diva author, who didn’t care whose feelings she hurt with her attitude and cutting words. After her epiphany, she was still the same person, but she tempered her words. Her characterization remained constant through the arc.

A strong type A doesn’t have trouble making decisions. They might make the wrong decision, but they will make one and swiftly.

Why their goal is important?
James Scott Bell teaches goals should be life threatening. That’s not always physical death. It could be psychological death (feels like dying on the inside) or professional death (loss of job or marriage, etc).

Is the conflict right for the character and the story?
Not all stories call for high conflict, but they do all need high tension. Are you scratching your head, thinking I’ve lost it? I haven’t really. In Anne of Green Gables, there isn’t much conflict as there is tension. Anne’s antics get her into trouble, making the story question of “will Anne’s aunt adopt her” doubtful, which creates the tension.

Do you feel invested in the character?
Angela Hunt teaches “We need to see your characters in every day situations, how they handle those, and how we relate to them before we care about the outcome of the story.”

The character needs an obvious problem on page one (not be confused with the inciting incident). This “problem” should advance the characterization and possibly hint at the coming inciting incident.

Using creative ways to deepen the characterization.
Study what these tell you about the characters:

Her potato loaded with butter and sour cream, Robin dove in. A gooey lump fell onto her blouse. She picked off the offending glob and flicked it onto the floor.

A wall of windows framed a panoramic view of the Chattahoochee River. Jenna never tired of it and often drew inspiration from the river’s capricious moods. Today, the turbulent waters foamed and eddied in the wind of the approaching storm.

Inside Celeste’s closet, clothing hung in a military parade of color; first short-sleeved blouses followed by long-sleeves, then the pants and skirts. In a corner on the floor, lay a handful of candy wrappers.

Leaning AneAne Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a novelist, a humor columnist, and a multi-published playwright. Her novels are Chapel Springs Revival and Chapel Springs Survival. She believes chocolate and coffee are two of the four major food groups and resides in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane at www.anemulligan.com.

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2 Responses to Relatable Characters

  1. Interesting post, Ane. I love your way with words!

  2. Melodie says:

    I enjoyed the characterization in the three snippets above. Relatable.