Editing Tip #32

Writing A Page Turner: Pt 3

Are Your Readers Engaged with Dynamic Main Characters?

Nothing is more disappointing than reading an amazing book blurb, getting excited about meeting the characters and being swept away by the plot only to face two-dimensional stereotypical fakes who act as a place-holder for Protagonist or Antagonist.

♥KatB Photography♥ Creative Commons

♥KatB Photography♥ Creative Commons

Here are the 5 Basic Rules for Creating Engaging Characters:

1) Know them as well as you know best friend.

2) Give them a flaw.

3) Give them a secret.

4) Keep them mysterious.

5) Make them human (figuratively speaking).


Consistency in who your characters are, their mannerisms, speech patterns, likes & dislikes, and overall personality and attitude should fundamentally remain the same throughout your book. If they do change drastically there has to be an obvious plot-related reason for it.


Nobody’s perfect and even if they are that in and of itself is a flaw that should be used against them throughout your book. The nun who has a habit of sneaking a cigarette after her meals is far more interesting than the one who rats her out. Your characters’ flaws make them interesting and give you opportunities to get them into trouble.


By having a secret they will keep hidden or protect at all costs will give rise to multiple opportunities where it might be drawn out and therefore must be protected. You might eventually reveal what this secret is to your reader (but not necessarily the other characters) or you might not. No matter what the outcome is, it will add another layer of tension and bring depth to your characters.


Don’t tell the reader (or other characters) too much about who they are.  If your character is a chatter-box who likes to talk about themselves limit which elements they are willing to share. In those cases the characters are often overcompensating for some other flaw or secret they are protecting. This will also help you keep your back story to a minimum. By only revealing small bits of information just before or just after it is relevant for your reader to know them, you are maintaining the mystery of your characters.


No matter if your character is an alien, a vampire, a succubus, reaper, or the undead they need to be relatable. Since your readers are mostly human then your characters need to have a sense of humanity about them.  Look at general mannerisms, speech patterns/dialogue, emotions, motivations, needs, desires, fears, goals, etc. You will make them believable by giving them an essence of humanity and something familiar for readers to latch onto.

Dynamic and interesting characters are all about layers and depth. Allow them to come to life on the page and give them room to stumble and fall.

Next week we’ll take a look at crisis. Are your characters finding themselves in increasingly trying situations?

Categories: Editing

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