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Create Compelling Characters

December 15, 2014

What is it about a story that gets your attention? Is it the setting? Will a good science fiction story set in outer space keep you engrossed? Maybe. Is it the plot? Will you stay tuned in to find out if the elaborate plan to break into someone’s mind through his dreams is a successful mission? Perhaps. Most people become fully invested in a story because they are intrigued and entranced by the characters. The following are some tips to help you create characters that will captivate your audience.

In order for the audience to be drawn to your character you must make him likeable. Early on, within the first few scenes of a film or a TV pilot, your character must do something that makes him likeable. He must do something that the audience can relate to in order to make the audience root for him. Blake Snyder calls this the “Save the Cat” scene. It’s the scene where the hero does something – like saving a cat – that makes the audience care about the character. Snyder coined it from the scene in Alien where Ripley actually saves a cat. Obviously in a TV series you won’t have to do this in every episode, but occasionally you’ll have to throw in one of these moments to remind the audience why they fell in love with the character in the first place.

To keep the audience invested in your character you must make him relatable. There has to be qualities in your character that most people can identify with. The audience needs to see your character reacting and interacting in ways that will make the audience say to themselves, “I would so totally do that!” or at the very least they know someone else who would so totally do that. If your audience can identify with your character it will keep them invested. One of the things that make Sheldon Cooper such a relatable person is not because the audience identifies with him, but because they know someone like him or wish they could be more like him. Leonard, on the other hand, is liked because of his kindness… not necessarily to Sheldon, because let’s face it, Sheldon doesn’t always deserve kindness.

Which brings me to the fact that your hero doesn’t have to be a good guy in order for us to like him. We just have to be able to relate to him. Norman Bates is not a good guy, but the audience can sympathize with him. Tyler Durden is not a good guy, but he has that likability, that carefree style that we all wish we had. Bring out the qualities in your characters that we all like and can relate to and you’ll be on your way to creating compelling characters in which your audience will want to invest.

  1. I think this can be extended even further. The first thing to do is gain interest, which I think can easily be done through likability, but can also be achieved by mystery or intrigue. I often read books where the author is trying too hard to get me to like the main character from the start, and my interest becomes lost. It’s as though they’re over-selling their MC before I’ve even gotten a good glimpse of the character, and it actually sets me against the MC. Interesting food for thought!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You make valid and excellent points. Mystery and intrigue are a couple of other powerful ways to get your audience invested in the hero, but don’t ever sell it. Don’t be the rookie car salesman that has one week left to sell a car before he’s fired. No one likes that guy. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

    • Tmorsecorde — I hear you. I used to read one very successful author’s books regularly. She’d make my eyes roll because she tried so hard to get me to like her main characters. I stopped reading her books altogether.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The First Ten Pages | The Dialogue Architect
  2. The Eight Hero’s Journey Archetypes | The Dialogue Architect
  3. Protagonists: The Antihero | The Dialogue Architect
  4. “My Life Would Make a Great Sitcom/Movie/Novel!” | The Dialogue Architect
  5. How to Attract a SAG Actor to Your Indie Film | The Dialogue Architect
  6. Before You Start Writing You Script: | The Dialogue Architect

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