Why Characters Matter In Fiction


What makes a good story, characters or plot?

The answer is, of course, that both need to be strong.

A story needs to have a solid plot to propel narrative events along. There’s no point having characters amble through a story with no clear purpose.

And it’s often the case that strong characterisation will make an impact on the reader, regardless of story setting.

So what makes a memorable character, and how does a writer go about creating one?

Empathy is key

The readers have to be able to relate to the characters.

Our fiction guidelines sum this up perfectly: “our readers like people”.

This means an effective “Friend” character will appeal to the readers through their attitudes and behaviours.

In life, we make decisions on whether or not we like or dislike someone based on what they say and do. Actions, words and behaviour make an impression on us, and we form an opinion.

It’s the same with characters in fiction: they need to be created in such a way that they feel real to the readers.

Heartbeat Writing

The Fiction team often finds that a great story idea can be let down by the characters, who come across as one-dimensional, and lacking realism.

And in a fiction setting, realism can often best be realised in emotions. Now, this doesn’t mean characters have to shed tears everywhere. It simply means that what they say and do has to be believable.

There’s a great line in the film “Walk The Line”, when record producer Sam Phillips tells aspiring musician Johnny Cash to believe in himself and “sing something different; something real; something you felt.”

Channelling your own personality into what your characters say and do can help.

That heartbeat, that feeling, can make all the difference in fiction writing.

As with everything in fiction, creating realistic characters always starts with the writer.

For more writing hints and tips, click here.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.