Updated: Dec 20, 2021
No one ever warned me I might fall in love with my characters.
Let me amend that: no one ever warned me that I had a 100% chance of falling in love with my characters.
I don't know if you are reading today as a reader or a writer or someone who got lost on the internet and distracted and fell into my blog but here's a warning I was never given: If you are going to write a book, you are bound to fall in love with your characters.
That is unless they are crappy characters. In which case, WARNING: your book will not make it.
Because here are books the way I see them: you can get away with bad grammar (hint hint: Michael Vey) or lack of description (hundreds and hundreds of books I have read) if you only have two things.
a plot people actually want to read.
characters people fall for.
The characters part is the most important, because, the way I see it, if you have beautiful, well-created characters that the audience falls for, then they drive the plot. They take it somewhere that the audience (and you) want it to go.
Take Robyn Carr's Virgin River for example. Her characters are awesome. You fall for them immediately and on the spot, you are willing to follow them anywhere. Her books don't so much have a large, long, drawn-out plot. Honestly, you could divide the books in all sorts of random places and they would still make sense as books. Rather than have one, well-developed plot, she has many well-developed characters that drive the plot.
But if you have a boring character? A nothing plot? No one will follow you anywhere. No one wants to read about the nondescript girl who did nothing.
I want to read about kings and queens. Criminals and outcasts. Magical creatures and regular folks who overcame the odds and accomplished their goals. I want to know why we love them. I want to know what makes them individual. I want to know who and what they love and what they are fighting for.
I want a character like Harmony Gold who, even though she's a criminal, stands up for what is right. Who will put everything on the line to fight for those she loves. She was abused as a child and finds it hard to let others in but when she does, is fiercely loyal and stubborn. Oh, and sarcastic. So sarcastic. Did I mention she is great with a sword??
I want a Chase Charming. Oblivious to the horrors of his Kingdom and the good in the Criminal he is sent down but determined to fight for his kingdom and family to the last breath. He is unsure what that will mean sometimes, but he will not let his indecision stop him from doing what he feels is right. He is loyal to family and state before friends or loves. He is the youngest but the brightest and the best with a sword though he perhaps doesn't have the same worldly experience as his brothers and doesn't know how to make decisions and how to choose to place some values above others. He's working on that. And he's working on accepting outside opinions.
I have so many characters I could go on about for days (I have a whole binder about them all. You could call me a bit of an Amy Santiago). But the reality is, when it comes down to it, only tiny portions of what is in my binder will make it into the book. The benefit of the binder is it helps me to create and develop my characters well enough that when I no longer know where to take the plot, they take it away for me.
Knowing my characters allows me to write without fear that I am messing up the descriptions of the characters, their weapons, or their clothing. Sure, I am likely to still have inaccuracies I will need to correct in the editing stage but the binders have obliterated a huge portion of them and helped me to double, even triple, the amount of description (from almost zero to a lot more) I included of the characters and scenery (that's right, I have a second binder for the scenery).
Knowing my characters has allowed me to fall for them. (And my sister as well. She has fallen for Chase's brother, Chance Charming). I know every aspect of my characters and I already dread the time I have to separate myself from them to work on a new project.
I have fallen for my characters. Have you fallen for yours?