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How do you make readers care? An editors tricks for writing unforgettable characters

Making readers CARE about your character is not actually a mystery. It is most often a product of good dialogue and good plotting. I have found on a rewrite that most writers need to go through the manuscript and tackle it on two levels.

 

​“Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow: night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. – Jon Snow, Game of Thrones by George R Martin.


​Do you cringe when you read those above lines? Do you feel they are OTT? Too dramatic? No you don't! They feel appropriate. In fact anything less would be a sell-out.They feel appropriate for the genre (fantasy), they feel appropriate for the character (Jon Snow) and they have the appropriate required intensity.


How about these lines:


"One day you do meet a man who kisses you and you can't breathe around it and you realize you don't need air. Oxygen is trivial. Desire makes life happen." McKayla Lane, Dreamfever, Karen Marie Moning.


Too much? Cheesy? Well, over 20 million readers will prove you wrong. When you have read a slow-burn romance over three novels you need dialogue like this. Strong passions, deep desires, crazy obsessive love. That is required. It is obligatory.


Bland feelings and mediocre characters have no place in a novel.They result in the 'who cares' response from readers. (So what do you do if the lead character is YOU?)


Making readers CARE about your character is not actually a mystery. It is most often a product of good dialogue and good plotting.


I have found on a rewrite that most writers need to go through the manuscript and tackle it on two levels:


MORE STRUCTURAL CONFLICT

Give your character (even if its YOU) a solid plot and enough external events to make the reader care if they fail.

Plotting and having enough scenes with enough conflict is critical. You really do need the external conflict to take your hero on a gripping, nail-biting adventure that readers care about.


STRONGER EMOTIONS Write exaggerated emotions. Rage, envy, jealousy, blind ambition, ruthless, cruelty, lust. These are strong emotions. Cut out anything bland... like concern.


STRONG STORY GOAL

Give your character a strong story goal (find my sister, save the world, pass Grade 8). Then make it almost impossible for them to succeed. Make them fight for it. Make the cost high if they fail.


STRONGER DIALOGUE Strong dialogue comes from strong characters. There is a difference between cheesy and powerful.


When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground." Cersei Lanister, Game of Thrones


No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire. – Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

 

Powerful dialogue makes characters readers love


“There is no good and evil, there is only power…and those too weak to seek it.” Lord Volemort,


Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up. – Veronica Roth, Divergent


I don’t want to die without any scars. – Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club


No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire. – Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


When you play the game of thrones you win or you die. There is no middle ground." Cersei Lanister, Game of Thrones


“Hear my words, and bear witness to my vow: night gathers and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realm of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” Jon Snow, Game of Thrones by George R Martin.

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