Character Investment

Characters are the vehicles in which a story moves along, right? So it’s not a stretch of our quasi-firing synapses that in order for readers to care about the story, they have to care about the characters. It’s called Character Investment, and I subscribe heavily to this because it’s what helps make a story bankable.

Plots are great; after all, it’s what drives us to turn the pages. But it’s the characters that make the plot come to life. I just rejected a manuscript I really wanted because the subject matter was wonderful, and the perspective was unique and marketable. The problem was that I couldn’t invest in the character because the author never let me know his character’s depth and breadth.

A fabulous plot is a wasted effort if I can’t get a feel for the characters. Who are they? What drives them? How do they react to confrontation or conflict? What thought processes do they encounter when trying to resolve a crisis? Are they hot heads or easy going? Do they tend to be punctual or late? What kind of books would they read? What foods do they like? Are they wine or beer drinkers? Do they have friends? What does their house look like? Their closets?

Obviously not all of these elements will be infused in the story, but I think this is a good writing exercise when developing a character. If they’re real to you, the author, then it’s easier to make them real in your story. And you definitely need to make them real in your query letter. The only flat thing in your manuscript should be the pages.

6 Responses to Character Investment

  1. Aston West says:

    I didn’t think Behler accepted fiction…?

  2. Scott says:

    Great post . . . and I agree 100%. I normally do an Excel sheet for the characters that lists favorite foods, favorite adult beverage, books, movies, etc. I then make sure to insert this information throughout the manuscript as I’m working. I also point out which characters are always on time, always early, and always late. I try to infuse as much ‘reality’ into the charcters without going overboard. I never thought about what their closets looked like. That’s a great idea. I wonder what a messy closet says about a person? What if only the closet is messy, and the rest of the house is semi-pristine? Hmmmmm . . . if I was still a psychology student, I might have gotten the idea for my next paper. SIGH. Oh well, perhaps I’ll have to think along those lines for my next character. Thanks again for the post.

  3. lynnpricewrites says:

    Todd, we look at fiction if the story is something I know we can sell because it meets all our criteria and the author has a great platform.

  4. Aston West says:

    Thanks for clearing that up. 😉

  5. Bep says:

    Much like R1Xy’s character template.
    Great blog, Lynn.

  6. Lynn Price says:

    Right, Beppie, Rixey is flat out brilliant.

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