The reason we read is for the story. The story is the reason we do a lot of things in our life. We gather them to tell and we listen to any chance we get. The common thing in each story is a character. There could be one or there could be many. A story about a character can be as short as “she got a promotion at work.” The story could follow a band of sentient beings across galaxies and span generations.
Writing is telling those stories in a document. You learn about these characters with every paragraph. Groups of people meet to analyze exactly what was the motivation behind their actions. Connections are made from the reader even if the character is not of this world. Devotion and alliances are created to the characters and what they represent in their own world and ours.
We all have motivations. Some of us are driven by power, some are driven by self-improvement, and others have any number of things that keep them moving forward. Your characters are the same way. They are acting a certain way for a reason. They could be a baseball player because that was all they have known. Your main character could have deep seeded issues from childhood which have manifested into them becoming a psychologist to helps others like them.
Beliefs are equally important. What does your character believe? Maybe they don’t believe in love because of coming from a broken home. If they were taught that violence was the answer their whole life, why wouldn’t they default to fighting when conflict arose? These could be small beliefs or larger ones. It could be a viewpoint they have on the world or one that is very personal.
The reason you know your characters so well is because they will be different in the end. Those beliefs or motivation or both will be challenged. When you look at your own life, you see that this happens frequently. The same goes for your story and the person who is the focus. They will be challenged. They will likely break. The character you started out with won’t be the one you finish with.
It does sound a bit cruel, but it is how you best get across a point. Stories teach us. We learn through other’s experiences. When I tell my son not to touch something because it is hot, I guarantee it is because I have tested it. I plan on one day telling him the story of how I burned my hand twice on the same cup of ramen noodles. He will learn that his father can be absentminded at times. Hopefully, he will learn the lesson I was trying to convey to be mindful around those things.
Having a character grow and your readers follow along with it is rewarding for everyone. What are some of your favorite stories?