character development

Characters: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em

Last weekend, my neighbor and I went to a garage sale in the pouring rain. To us, this meant prime time shopping with less competition. While we were browsing, I spied the former mayor of our town surrounded by a swarm of other shoppers. He talked up a storm in the middle of the thunderstorm. Then he said, “I’d better go. When I talk too much, I get in trouble.” For him, this was an understatement. I remember a big stink in the community about possible tape recorded conversations while he was mayor. It was a regular Watergate in our small town of make-believe Mayberry. Although he was the former mayor, he still caused a commotion and people still wanted to hear what he had to say.

People like him-you either love them, or you don’t. They’re memorable characters who cause things to happen around them. They light fires everywhere they go. Sometimes the sparks ignite something big, and sometimes, they just leave the scene and everyone around them smoldering. One thing is certain: they’ll be remembered.

When you write, this is what you want. You want characters to make an impression. It irks the reader to flip back pages and even chapters to hunt for the introduction of a character in order to recall who that person is and where he came from. Make your characters stand out by having them do something naughty or out of the norm. It’s better than being blasé, bland, boring, or just blah. And when you do, make sure they pay the consequences. In the ex-mayor’s case, his penalty was not being re-elected. He still had a grand following though, and was the center of the garage sale attention. For my neighbor and I, this meant even more prime time shopping.

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