Good characters should be

1. Heroic: They struggle to meet every day challenges or extreme challenges. Either way they show courage and dignity in their battle. They don't have to be nice, but they do have to be good. If you start with a negative character there must be a glimmer of hope the reader can discern that they could change for the better.

2. Believable: Give them strengths and weaknesses. Often it is the latter that readers identify with more. And you must give consistent evidence of these traits, not just show it once.

3. Sympathetic: Readers like characters who make things happen; who actively respond to the world around them instead of constantly reacting. Readers don't particularly care for victims. Remember I said above that you get to truly know someone by how they react in a crisis—in the same manner, characters grab our attention when they face a crisis. Also remember that opposing external traits cause inner conflict.

4. Memorable. Think back about your favorite book and what do you remember? The characters.

Sometimes less is better. What I mean is that occasionally I'll get a manuscript to read and as soon as the main character is introduced, we get their entire life history. How do you feel about meeting someone like that in real life, where you know everything about them at the first meeting? What's the point in seeing them again?

You, as the author, have to know everything about your character, but you don't have to tell the reader everything. A little mystery is intriguing. You know how your character developed a quirky trait, but by not telling the reader up front, you make the reader curious. For example, in the movie LA Confidential, we meet each of the three main characters in three opening scenes and each of them shows us something about who they are by actions they take, but we don't know why they're taking those action until much further in the movie.

The best way to think about your characters is as if they were real people your readers are meeting for the first time on a blind date. Make the meeting a memorable and make the character someone the reader wants to go out with again.

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