Creating characters is always a challenge so I’m thrilled to have a guest post from author Marcy Blesy with hints on how to develop unforgettable characters. Marcy is the author of Prom for One (young adult novella), Confessions of a Corn Kid (middle grade novel), and Am I Like My Daddy? (picture book).
I have been writing children’s books (picture book to young adult) for several years now. I always ask “beta readers” to review various stages of my manuscripts along the way to make sure I am on target with what I am intending to convey through the story. One young adult historical fiction manuscript I wrote (unpublished) elicited responses like this with early drafts:
“Your main character is not likable.”
“She’s too needy. Make her stronger.”
And a middle grade contemporary novel brought these responses:
“I don’t like your main character.”
“She’s thinks too highly of herself.”
After the sting went away, for much of myself often finds itself in the description of the main character (I can’t help it!), I set to work tearing into the manuscripts to make the reader love my main characters as much as I did. I thought about them all the time. They became part of my daily life. Who couldn’t like them? Check out the response to the YA historical fiction manuscript from an editor after my final draft:
“This was a story filled with sweet and likable characters in a time period that was very believable.”
Here is one of many positive reviews I have received from the middle grade contemporary novel (now published on Amazon as Confessions of a Corn Kid).
“…She’s a truly lovable character and I believe middle grade readers will easily relate to her world.”
I personally read stories for the characters. I want to love the characters. I want them to make me laugh and cry and root for them despite their flaws. Learning how to convey what is in my head and heart as I write has taken time, practice, and many, many drafts, but I strive to make readers feel the same way about my characters as I do.
In my most recent publication, Prom for One, showcasing the main characters has to come quickly because the genre is a contemporary short story. In 40 pages there isn’t time to delve too deeply into descriptions as the plot must move along at a fast pace. I started with an idea in my head of how Lexie, the 17-year-old protagonist, felt. Through the plot I tried to show her vulnerabilities about her body image, her fear over her dad being in Afghanistan, and her longing to land the perfect date for her senior prom, the boy who already has the perfect girlfriend.
If a character can’t leave your mind after you’ve read a short story or novel, the author has done something right. That is my goal as an author.