I read the Goodreads interview with Sarah Dessen yesterday. In it, she talks about writing relatable characters. If anyone, she can write relatable characters, right?
But I don’t think the fact that the readers can identify themselves with the characters is the only thing that makes her protagonists, or the protagonists of any other book popular. I think the other dimension a good character needs is a special trait, something unique that makes them unforgettable.
When I read a book, I want to feel with the characters because if I’m not emotionally invested I’ll stop reading. It doesn’t mean the characters need to be flawless, in fact, the more flawed they are, the juicier. But despite their sins, they need to be redeemable, they have to have something that makes me believe in them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the promise that there’s something good in them beneath their bad behavior; sometimes a convincing explanation of their motivations is enough.
So that’s the relatable part. But the second thing is their uniqueness. Because I don’t really want to read hundreds of books about someone who is just like me. Instead, think Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. You don’t easily forget her, do you? I read the books more than five years ago and I still remember her vividly because she’s unlike any other character I’ve ever read about. She’s not a particularly good character, either, but thousands of readers were thrilled with her portrayal because she was so different and because the reasons behind her actions were so well explained.
I think the trick to writing a memorable, but convincing character is finding the balance between the two sides of any human being: what makes us individuals, special, different, and what makes us belong.
On a different note, thank you to everyone who bid on the items I offered for the Authors for Nepal auction. The signed books are already on their way to the highest bidder and the winner of the critique package has also been contacted. A big thank you!
Other items are still available to bid on, so go on over to eBay and donate for a good cause and in turn win goodies from amazing authors.