POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE
One of my favorite movies is from the 80’s is The Never-ending Story. It’s a kid’s movie, but it’s really ageless because it’s so deep.
A beautiful world ruled by a child-like empress, who is dying. The only way to save her is to get in touch with an earthling child. And the only way to get in touch with an earthling child is to have a warrior child go on an adventure.
That’s the importance of characters in a nutshell.
Without good characters, there’s no point to even having a story. You may have a profound lesson to get across to your reader, but you won’t contact them if you don’t show them someone who could be them. For example, Bastian would never have learned his lesson if Atreyu had not taken on a dangerous mission, losing his horse, nearly losing his very own self, and then nearly being swallowed by nothingness. Bastian identified with Atreyu, and that’s how contact was made.
The way to make a character your reader will identify with is, first, know your audience. Who are you aiming for? What are the characteristics of that group?
Once you understand your audience, the research begins. I’m talking about people watching. Stand back in a corner and watch what happens. Listen to conversations. Watch body language and listen to their lingo.
Now, this is where your imagination applies what you’ve learned. Step into their head and watch the world through their eyes.
When I was in high school I did a little bit of theater. One of the things I learned is “putting on a character.” This is where you become them.
And this is where you make contact with your reader. And they’ll love you for it.