10 Excellent Tips from Chuck Wendig

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In his informative guide, Damn Fine Story, New York Times best-selling author Chuck Wendig shares 50 storytelling tips in the Appendix. Here are ten excellent tips about character development:

1. Characters are not role models, and stories are not lectures.

2. We care about characters we understand, so it’s your job to make us understand your characters.

3. Characters must earn their victories.

4. Characters also earn their failures and losses.

5. If your characters are getting in the way of your plot, good. Let them. They are the plot. They are the subject, so let the tale unfold in their wake, not in their absence.

6. Likeability is less important a factor in your characters than relatability. It’s not about wanting to sit down and have a beer with them; it’s about being able to live with them for the breadth of a whole novel. Forget liking them, but do remember that we have to live with them. If all else fails: Just make them interesting.

7. Characters must make mistakes. But they cannot only make mistakes. They must have triumphs, too. A story isn’t an endless array of failure and disaster—we must have some sense of success to understand why success must, above all else (and against all odds), not be lost. Further, characters who only make mistakes become intolerable to us. We start to actively root for their failure if we cannot see in them the potential for success.

8. The best villains are the ones we adore despite how much we hate and fear them. We should adore them, and we should understand them.

9. Characters don’t know what the plot is. So don’t ever expect them to follow it. We can feel when characters are forced from their own program because authors are overwriting them with the Plot Program. It feels gross. Characters only know what they want and what they’re willing to do or lose to get it.

10. Characters are more interesting when they are smart and capable instead of dumb and pliable.

Source: Damn Fine Story pp. 218-225.