Peggy Bechko on Creating Characters We Care About

Hey, we remember this guy!
Hey, we remember this guy!

by Peggy Bechko

Have you wondered how a writer goes about creating characters his or her readers will actually care about?

There are lots and lots of ways and as many approaches as there are writers. It’s simple and yet difficult. The writer wants a relationship with the reader. It’s as simple as that – and as difficult.

Characters drive the story and every character in the story your favorite writer creates must have a desire. It doesn’t matter what that is, it could even be as simple as new car, a new job, a new girlfriend or just a glass of water.  Lack of desire equals lack of story.

Think about this, readers, when the writer you’re reading now creates a story that writer thinks about all sorts of things relating to the characters. What are the fears, what music or films might the main character like. A favorite food? A strong aversion? The writer will even pass that information along to you, the reader so you understand the character and become more involved.

But everything is really secondary to the DESIRE. The desire the main character has makes him or her come to life. It can be very simple like a child’s desire for a glass of water in the middle of the night and the harried parents’ need to fulfill it. It can be a groom who simply desires to make it to the church on time. Maybe one character desires another. Perhaps it’s as dark and evil and complicated as the desire of the devil to mess up the world or a criminal who wants a big payday.

Or maybe it’s a strong desire to avoid battling bears.

Whatever the desire, that desire breathes life into the character and creates a well-rounded human the reader can identify with. And any reader who pauses for even a moment to consider, will tell anyone who talks books that it’s the desire of the character they identify with that moves the story forward.  In fact, it’s up to the writer to not only make it clear what that desire is, but to telegraph it in such a fashion that the reader understands what the desire is and in fact begins to feel that want as well. Even if a character’s desires are not out own (remember that Satan thing I mentioned above or the criminal and his payday?) knowing the desire, understanding it draws a reader in and to the point where that reader cheers the character on.

DESIRE is the key factor and no matter how much action a writer throws into a story, how much pathos, greed, or anything else, it will just seem like one clip after another, one thing after another, unless like pearls on a string they’re linked by the character’s desire and through that desire the necessity of making choices and taking action.


Peggy Bechko is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™.  Learn more about her HERE. This article first appeared on her sensational blog.