The Challenge of Creating Compelling Characters

I know I need to make the characters in my stories more compelling. I have read lot of advice on how to do that, but I haven’t found much of it very helpful.

It seems to me that most of what I read assumes that you already have an intuitive understanding of what makes people tick. I certainly don’t feel my intuitive sense of people is as strong as they assume. Someone suggested I might be mildly autistic. In engineering that can be an asset, but in writing it is a big handicap.

In my lazier moments I wish for a magic formula to create characters. Something that would say if they want “A” they will do “B”. This is quite unrealistic and in any event would be very limiting.

A common suggestion is to fill in a questionnaire about each character. The Script Lab has an example of a character questionnaire. The idea is that the more you know about them the easier it is to visualize the character and how they would behave. That hasn’t worked very well for me.

One approach that I used when I prepared The Doorman’s Sacrifice outline was to describe each characters’ thoughts as the scene unfolded. I think this would work, provided I put a lot more effort. Not only would I need to describe what they think, but also the thought process they would go through to make their decisions. Note: 2015 May 20 – I removed the script from Amazon, so removed the link from this page.

I expect that many writers must go through a similar process. While some can do it intuitively, other would need to work it through rationally. I believe I need to follow the rational path, although I fear that this runs the risk of superficiality. It is also a lot of work.

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