Character Goals: the Key to Great Conflict

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Character motivation is the key to great stories. If you think about the stories you love, chances are they’re great because everyone in them has clear goals, dreams and desires. The clashes between these goals, dreams and desires creates conflict.

For example, in Game of Thrones, every character has a clear goal. These goals make each character seem more lifelike. They also give readers a reason to root for each of the characters, which is an impressive feat considering that each book in the series features 10+ point of view characters!

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How to Create Effective Character Names

Names are an important part of all good characters. Names can be brave, funny, or menacing, and are an essential part of character creation. Personally, I always need a name for my characters before I can flesh them out, and that’s why today’s post will provide guidelines for crafting memorable, powerful and effective character names.

Consider Character Traits:

Is your character a tad meek, and maybe a little hopeless? If so, name them Neville Longbottom!

Is your character a tough, competant, I’ll-do-it-alone kinda guy? If so, call them Han Solo!

A character’s name is a reader’s first experience of that character. Thus, it makes sense to use names to reflect a character’s personality.

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5 Reasons To Have a Likeable Antagonist

When most people hear ‘antagonist’, they think of a moustache-twirling megalomaniac who kicks puppies in their spare time. While there’s certainly a place for antagonists that are pure evil incarnate (Darth Vader in A New Hope is a great example), here are some compelling reasons to make your antagonist(s) a little more sympathetic:

  1. ‘Antagonist’ does not equal ‘bad guy’

A common misconception is that all antagonists must be villanous. This isn’t always true. An antagonist is merely a force that opposes your protagonist. Yes, this means it could be an uber-evil villain (like Darth Vader); but it could also be the hero’s parents, who don’t want him joining the army. In this example, the hero’s parents are not ‘evil’ – what they are doing, however, is opposing the protagonist, which makes them antagonists.

Antagonists don’t even have to be human. Non-human antagonists could be:

  • A vicious guard dog that attacks your postal-worker protagonist.
  • A thorny bush your detective-protagonist has to crawl through.
  • A hail storm that damages your taxi-driver-hero’s car.

Antagonists are usually human (because this provides maximum opportunity for conflict). However, there are lots of stories where the primary antagonist is non-human. Castaway, with Tom Hanks, is a great example. Likewise, plenty of survival-style stories feature nature as the main antagonist.

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4 Essential Elements of an Effective Love Interest Character

Last week, we looked at how character triangles are a great way to increase the complexity of your characters’ relationships, and how most (good) stories use triangular relationships to increase tension, interest and conflict.

This week, we’ll be looking at the love interest character. Love interests are a staple of some genres, and just like character triangles, they add extra depth to a story – provided they’re well-crafted. Here are 4 essential elements of an effective love interest character.

1. Character first; love interest second

The biggest mistake most people make with writing a love interest is that they create love interests as just that – a source of romantic fulfilment to the main character. This leads to a shallow, uninteresting and one-dimensional character.

By creating a compelling character first – and making them a love interest second – you add realism and depth. Readers will better connect with the love interest – which gives writers plenty of opportunities to hit them right in the feels.

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Why Character Triangles Work (Or: Why Good Things Come in Threes)

The love triangle may be one of the most abused elements of contemporary fiction (particularly in the YA genre), but that’s for a good reason. The reason is this: good things come in threes. Beginning, middle, end; the Three Musketeers; birth, life, death; Ego, Superego, Id; past, present, future. It’s natural to structure elements in 3s, but there’s also a compelling mathematical logic for having three primary characters* in your novel.

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How to Kill a Character (in fiction, not real life, you bloodthirsty villains!)

Killing a character isn’t as simple as it seems. From readers not caring about a dead character to awkward deaths that contribute nothing to the plot, it’s easy (as with everything in writing) to screw up. What’s more, there’s no one right way to kill a character. There are, however, some story elements that are more or less universally effective when it comes to literary homicide:

1. Make readers care

Making readers care is a writer’s toughest, but most important, job. If readers are emotionally invested in characters, their deaths (the characters’ not the readers!) will matter. The death of an interesting, three-dimensional and compelling character will hurt far more than an undeveloped character’s demise.

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