We’ve all read a story with a larger-than-life hero or an unforgettable heroine. But what really makes these characters connect with the audience while others fall flat? What makes EVE DALLAS, STEPHANIE PLUM, JESSE STONE, and RICHARD RAHL memorable? (see footnotes)

In my opinion, internal conflict is the key to making your characters sparkle on the page. This is how readers understand motivations and actions. This is what makes each character tick. What happened during Eve Dallas’s childhood to make her such a staunch defender of the underdog? Why is achieving justice so important to her? Finding answers to these questions is only the first step.

Then the hard work begins.

How do we, as writers, transfer those characters to the written page? I assure you it’s easier said than done. For it requires a journey through the writer’s inner conflicts. It requires a self examination of our own insecurities, those nagging uncertainties that keep us from believing in ourselves.

Let’s dissect three such hindrances to making characters memorable.

• Fear of exposing ourselves to the world: When I first started writing, I struggled with this every time I sat down at my computer. Being a Christian, I was afraid of what my pastor and friends would think about me writing romance. I second guessed every word on the page. No swearing allowed, no vivid sex scenes. Only after I could separate myself from my writing and step outside my comfort zone was I able to release my creative energy and write protagonists readers could relate to and fall in love with.

Fear of facing inner demons: Life is not always pretty. We’ve all seen or personally experienced life-changing events. Learning to tap into my past heartaches, pains, and failures helped me to breathe life into my characters. I used all those raw emotions to show how my heroes/heroines handle the conflict in their lives. Along the way I discovered that just as my characters had to endure an emotional journey to grow, I did also.

• Fear of rejection: There’s always a small part of ourselves in every character we create. Either the person reflects who we are now or who we desire to be deep down inside. In essence, we’re putting ourselves out there to be judged, never an easy thing to do, but something that must be overcome. Unforgettable characters find the courage to take chances. They evolve over time and learn to trust in themselves.

I once overheard the quote: Pain and fear are temporary. Glory is forever. I remind myself of this every time doubt creeps into my writing. I use it as my motivational mantra. Holding it close to my heart helps me to purge my internal struggles and write my own larger-than-life characters.

Are you up to the challenge?

8 comments

  1. Mary Marvella // September 23, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

    Wonderful and so helpful, Pamela!

  2. Username // September 23, 2009 at 1:42 PM  

    My biggest one was the fear of rejection. Conquering that has been a biggie for me.
    Great insight Pam.

  3. Mary Ricksen // September 23, 2009 at 1:44 PM  

    I don't know why I keep showing as Username?
    I'm the one with the fear of rejection! Hand raised, that's me.

  4. Beth Trissel // September 23, 2009 at 5:06 PM  

    Excellent post! Thanks so much. The key word it seems is overcoming our fears.

  5. Judy // September 23, 2009 at 5:20 PM  

    Great post, Pam! Spot on! I cringed when I came to fear of rejection because as writers we all must overcome it! Without the rejections you don't reconsider and improve. Crazy business, huh?

  6. Scarlet Pumpernickel // September 24, 2009 at 12:37 AM  

    Pam, interesting topic made me think of how I create my characters and I've decided I allow them to grow organically. I wait for them to reveal themselves to me. Makes for more work, because once I see them, I have to go back to be sure the reader sees them in the same light. Rejection? Did someone mention rejection? Slinking quietly toward the door--Scarlet hates rejection.

  7. Barbara Monajem // September 24, 2009 at 1:17 AM  

    Thanks for a wisdom-filled post, Pam. Stepping outside one's comfort zone is such a rewarding experience!

  8. Joanne // September 24, 2009 at 3:04 PM  

    Pam,
    Writing is challenging, and it's scary to step outside of our comfort zone and make ourselves vulnerable.
    Great post.