Last month I proposed the question to my newsletter readers: What questions do you have for me? One of my followers asked me what my main drive is when I’m creating characters and plot.
The short answer is that I want to create realistic, relatable characters in a plot that’s fresh and unexpected. How do I do that? Well, you’ll just have to keep reading!
When I’m creating the characters in my stories, my main drive is as simple as realism. Even if I were to work on a science-fiction or fantasy novel, I would still want my characters to be realistic. I don’t mean my characters have to be realistic in that they’re your average Joe kind of guy, but realistic in the sense that the reader thinks they’re living and breathing somewhere as we speak. The best way I do this is by creating challenges and goals for my characters.
Take my first novel, Lost Girls, for example. My main character, Felicity, has her individual wants and needs as a person while also facing her fair share of challenges throughout the entirety of the novel. All she wants is to settle down and create a family, something she hasn’t felt since her parents died when she was a teenager (the first challenge she faces). Her individual want to find love and start a family brought her to the challenge of finding herself on a missing person poster, among other challenges spread across the book.
In my upcoming novel, The Seventh Day, my main character Matt is faced with the challenge of returning home after being away for ten years, however, his want to be there for his family after the untimely death of his father trumps everything else in his life. I wish I could share more about Matt and his family, but I don’t want to spoil anything too early for you guys!
In a nutshell, I make my characters realistic by making them seem like they’re humans living somewhere else in the world. Let’s face it, everyone has their own goals in life that pushes them to the things they do every day. It sure would be nice though if life allowed us to get exactly what we wanted when we wanted it. But that’s not how life works. Life throws us challenges that we have to overcome. This shouldn’t be any less true for our characters.
Another drive for me when it comes to creating characters is making someone that most people can relate to. This personal touch came to me years ago after reading Me Before You. Within a matter of chapters, I was hooked to the storyline. While I was drawn to the plot, I found myself truly drawn to one of the characters, Louisa Clark. I immediately identified with her character because, at the time, I too underestimated myself and saw myself going nowhere. After reading Jojo Moyes’ novel, I found that I was pushing myself to live more outside of my comfort zone and do the things I wanted to do, but was too afraid to.
This relatable quality is something I strive for when creating my own characters. Again, take Felicity for example. On a surface level, many people can relate to the difficulties of a long time best friend wanting to go down a different path in life than your own and the frustrations it may cause. Additionally, many people can relate to others constantly underestimating their capabilities.
Regardless of what story I’m writing or what character I’m creating, I want the reader to look at and root for at least one of the characters because they see themselves in said person.
When it comes to my drive for writing plot, it simply is that I want to write the next book that the reader cannot put down. As one of my reviewers wrote, I want to write the next, “One more page,” kind of book. I do this by filling the pages with compelling copy that makes the reader feel like they’re part of the story and with plot twists that keep the reader on their toes from page one until the end and beyond.
I cannot stress enough the need for outlining a novel! The only way I’m able to keep track of all of the storylines I could potentially create is by outlining every single chapter of my novel. By doing so, I’m able to create a visual map of how we get from point A to point B, with all of the possible expected and unexpected paths along the way.
When brainstorming story ideas, I try and think of ideas that resonate with the reader but add my own creative flair to make something completely unknown to the reader. So far, I’ve found that helps to keep the readers guessing of what is yet to come. By taking a topic the readers may be familiar with, for instance, a true-crime novel involving a wife’s murder and writing an ending completely different from the usual story is how I like to write my plot. My drive is to write a plot full of fresh ideas that, again, keeps the readers on their toes.