Peggy Bechko Discusses How Writers – and Readers – Regard Characters


by Peggy Becko

Today I’m addressing writers and readers. It’s interesting how writers get lost in their own stories at times, even to the point of forgetting it’s their readers they want to engage and draw into the story and the lives of the character.

So I’ll focus, for the moment on characters and more specifically, the hero or heroine of the story. Characters are integral to the story. They aren’t just stick figures to be moved about, populating the world the writer has created in order to move those exciting and cool twists and turns of plot forward.

Right readers? You’re in it for more than that. Rarely do you readers wish you could read more about the plot, but rather wish you could read more about the characters, spend more time with them, learn what makes them tick. I’ve heard that from so many readers.

Think about the stories you’ve read and which ones are truly memorable in your mind. You know, the ones that kept you up late reading or made you forget to fix diner or for which you skipped the trip to the gym or climbed up on your stationary bike with book in hand and kept reading while pedaling.

Plot is important, plainly, but it is the empathy with the characters and their problems to be solved that truly drags the reader in for the full ride.

Tell me, reader, isn’t it true you like to know a bit of background, what makes a character tick so that when the trouble you know is coming arrives you can empathize and identify with that character. You can move through the action, understanding, if not liking, the hero’s response.

Readers, all of us, identify, or not, with the actions of characters with thoughts like, “get inside stupid!” or “I sure wouldn’t do that”, or “why didn’t you kill the SOB?” What really pulls a reader into a story is the character’s actions and reactions. And knowing something about the character makes it all more real. If a character who’s a doctor comes home after a miserable day, finds the house empty, his spouse gone because he has never reconciled the tragedy of his son’s death while out surfing, then gets an emergency call from the hospital that he’s needed and puts all his personal baggage aside to go save a life the reader comes to deeply care about him. They’ll be rooting for him to succeed in whatever challenges the writer throws at him.

All of this is why it’s important for characters to be real. To have flaws, to make mistakes. To have had a life before the story the writer is telling.

Take a minute to tell us what you’ve loved about a character as a reader or what you’ve loved creating in a character for your audience. And go out there and read/write more great books!

Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™.  Learn more about her HERE. And don’t forget to visit her sensational blog, where this post was first published.