If Walls Could Talk: The Importance Of Strong Characters

people

I was in a couple of discussions this past weekend and a similar topic showed up multiple times. When that happens and the topic is related to writing, that’s a sure sign that it’s probably going to make itself into a blog post.

Plot and Characters.

Two things that one cannot make a story without. Two things that people often bicker over what’s important.

Let me say this. You cannot have a good story without a solid plot. I’ve seen my own stories fall apart because the plot has had holes the size of Texas in it.

That’s why so many people have spent time writing books, blogs, and articles on the idea of plots. Don’t neglect it.

But, far too often, I see people neglect character development for the sake of a shiny plot. And let me tell you this, no matter how good your story, no matter how much you’ve thought your plot through, if you do not take time to establish your characters and help them to develop and thrive, then your story will fall flat.

There was a show that came on almost a decade ago and aired for one season, Commander in Chief. It was a political drama with the premise of a woman Vice President becoming president after the POTUS was killed.

I watched the season after reading about it in a screenwriting book. I was intrigued by the idea and the book mentioned the writing was good.

And to an extent, I agree with the author of the book. It also only took me one viewing to see why it only lasted one season.

After all the ups and downs of the season, I came out at the end realizing something very important.

I didn’t care about any of the characters.

The writing wasn’t bad, it had some rather witty moments. But after a 22 episode season there wasn’t a single character in that show that I was emotional invested in.

I’ve said, a few times during my time blogging for 18thWall even, that when one goes to try a new TV show, one comes for the premise but stays for the character.

It’s the same for books. The series that survive and become big are the ones that have characters that people latch on to. They are the ones where people almost forget that they aren’t actually real and laugh and smile at their successes and cry along with them when tragedy strikes. They are the ones where the story is strong and compelling and seem like an old friend.

Who is your protagonist? Your antagonist? What makes them tick, what motivates them?

And most importantly, why should people care about them? Why should they get invested in their lives?

Answer that, and you’re good to go.