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#AADNOLA spotlight/guest post – Darynda Jones: On Why We Fall in Love with Fictional Characters
As a writer, one of the things I have to ask myself quite often is, “Will my readers love this character as much as I do?”
Stepping back and taking an honest look at said character is not always easy, but if I want my readers to love her, to really root for and care about what happens to her, it’s something I have to do. Often if a story isn’t ‘working’, it’s because I haven’t really explored my character well enough, her goals and motivation, her deepest desires and darkest fears. If I’m not in love with my character, if I don’t totally know her, my readers won’t be either.
So what makes us fall in love with a fictional character?
First off, they are larger than life. They can simply do things we can’t. They react in endearing and self-sacrificing ways. They would risk their necks to save the cat. Many of us would, too, but if it honestly put our own lives in danger? It’s hard to say unless we’ve been there. But make no mistake, our characters sure would!
Second, they are pretty. Not perfect! Never perfect. But pretty. It’s like when you see your favorite actors in a movie, you stare and sigh, and then later you see candid shots of him or her at a coffee shop or at the grocery store. They are still gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but they are not that air-brushed picture of near-perfection that melted our knees when they appeared in the summer blockbuster. They are just everyday people like us. In books, our heroes and heroines don’t have to worry about breakouts or tan lines. Their shirts might get torn while running away from the bad guys, but it’s a sexy rip that reveals the hills and valleys of a set of mouthwatering biceps. Unlike, say, if my shirt were ripped. You’ll just have to take my word for it. It would not be pretty.
Third, and possibly most important, they are flawed. As they should be. Fictional characters may be larger than life and really, really pretty, but they are imperfect and vulnerable. They have been jaded, perhaps. Hurt. They fear commitment. Intimacy. Love. Nothing is sexier than an anti-hero, who has been jaded by a hard life, gone good. He may be a bit rough around the edges, but the best delicacies are.
Now we writers take all of these characteristics and magnify them. We make them abnormally obvious. From there, we toss in a little charm and the occasional witty barb and we create characters our readers will fall in love with. It’s unfair, I know, but that’s how we do it.
One of my favorite sayings is from a novel on romance writing by Julie Beard. In it, she says, “ . . . the more obdurate the hero, the sweeter the triumph when the heroine brings him to his knees.”
NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious Golden Heart®, a Rebecca, and two Hold Medallions as well as starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and the Library Journal. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike, and she is ever so grateful for the opportunity to carry on that tradition. She currently has two series with St. Martin’s Press: The Charley Davidson Series and the Darklight Trilogy. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of almost 30 years and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. She can be found at www.daryndajones.com.