10 Character Tips That Will Help You Tell Better Stories
Characters are the life’s blood of a great story. The things that they go through, and the things that they aspire to, allow us to live vicariously through them. If you want to tell better stories, you need to understand your characters. Here are 10 hacks that will help you tell better stories.
1. Everyone Craves Adventure
Ordinary life is boring and routine. Even when people are happy with their lives they occasionally crave an adventure. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s epic or a small change of pace, as long as it’s different. Find out what every character in the story finds exciting and throw them into the middle of it, then see how they react.
2. Everyone is Seeking Something
All people have doubts about their life choices, and need validation, closure, or a do-over. It’s about addressing their feelings, so they can move forward with their life in some way. Find out what the character’s emotional needs are, and create a path they can follow to find whatever will meet those needs.
3. Everyone’s Fortune Changes
Money is a fleeting thing, and no one ever has enough of it. No matter how careful people are or how well they plan, it goes out suddenly and sometimes even comes back unexpectedly. Find out what the character needs money for, then make the money scarce. Give them a path they can follow to earn what they need and want.
4. Everyone Needs Saving
People fall on hard times and need other people to bail them out. It might be the result of bad choices, or random circumstance. Find out what the character can’t manage to do on their own, and make them face it. Give them the opportunity to ask for help and develop a relationship with their rescuer.
5. Everyone Needs Escape
Sometimes the only way to deal with a situation is to get away from it. This might be a short break to clear the head and think things over, or a permanent flight from an intolerable situation. Find out what the character needs to get away from, and provide a path out of the situation for them to explore.
6. Everyone’s Pressed for Time
The biggest cause of stress, and the greatest personal challenge many people face, is time management. There is too much to do in a day, and too many places to visit in a lifetime. Find out what the character has to do, the conflicts they have, and the restrictions placed on the use of their time. Then force them to make hard choices.
7. Everyone’s Clueless
No one knows everything. People are surprised every day by things that were right in front of them. It’s hard to keep track of all the pieces, let alone assemble them in an order that makes sense. Find out what the character doesn’t know, then figure out how finding out will have a huge impact on their life.
8. Everyone Wants Justice
At some point everyone feels they’ve been treated unfairly. It might be something small and irritating, or something major that ruins their life. People want things that have gone wrong to be set right. Find out what has happened to the character, or someone they care about, that they want to fix, and provide them a path to do so.
9. Everyone Feels Jealousy
People have goals and ambitions, but sometimes someone else gets what they wanted. From mild envy to jealous rage, characters react poorly when others succeed while they’re denied why they feel is their due. Find out what the character wants and give it to someone else. Make how they handle it the focus of the story.
10. Everyone’s an Underdog
While every person things of themselves as the hero of their own story, sometimes they haven’t quiet achieved full hero status yet. Something holds them back and keeps them from fulfilling their potential. Find out what the character can’t quiet overcome, and give them a path to explore to get where they want to be in life.
Tell Better Stories
Drama stems from conflict, and pushing your characters’ buttons definitely counts as conflict. But you need to know what those buttons are in order to push them. For more in-depth advice, check out ReadWriteRoll, a game for people who love stories.