Problems caused by a lack of connection to a character:
- Their voice isn’t distinct. It always sounds different or never sounds truly authentic to the character.
- The character doesn’t have anything to do in scenes or gets “lost” in scenes/conversations.
- The character is unemotional, melodramatic, or expresses emotions arbitrarily or inconsistently.
- You don’t enjoy writing them.
A common reason for a lack of connection is under development in a few key areas of characterization:
- Their motivation – The emotional driving force behind their goal. This may be the desire to shift from one “state” to another: from powerless to powerful, from lonely to loved, etc.
- Their false belief – Something the character believes about themselves, other people, or the world that is harmful. For example, “the only way to be powerful is to put yourself above others.” This is what changes to create the character arc (if an arc is present in the story).
- Their key traits – Positive traits built from the motivation and negative traits built from the false belief. These are tangible/identifiable traits that impact their actions and interactions with others. In other words, the outward manifestations of their motivation and false belief.
Solutions to try:
- Write out the motivation, false belief, and key traits. Start with the information you know and then brainstorm or extrapolate what you don’t know.
- Write out two key emotional scenes – the scene of backstory that created their false belief and the scene within the novel that has the highest level of emotion associated with the false belief or motivation.
- Look at photographs that emotionally resonate with you to help establish a connection to the character, then redo the previous two exercises.
- Make the character more similar to you by giving them a false belief or motivation that you find easier to relate to.