So, where do the stories come from? What makes a good story? Or…what makes a story good?
As with all art, it is up to the Reader to decide whether a story is good or not, and for many they can’t tell you why they feel that way.
Some of us like to read dark, dystopian stories that let us see that the hell of our reality could be so much worse. Some prefer lighter and brighter stories that let us see a better world/future. Some are in it for a driving plot. Others prefer character driven stories. Some want action. Some want comfort.
When I’m reading I like a lot of different kinds of stories. I am drawn to science fiction and fantasy, especially when the characters are vibrant and relatable, even if they are aliens or elves.
However, when I write, tend to stick a little closer to home. All of my published work, and the current series I’m working on, take place in our world (at least to start). My characters are where my story comes from, what my stories rely on. Without them, there is no story.
So, what makes a good character?
Look at the people in your own life. See them for who they are, all their faults and foibles, all of their joys and triumphs. Each of your characters should be that real. Take your time with them, yes, even the background characters should have their own life.
When I am just getting started with a character, I build what I call a character sheet. It includes name, age, height, build, eye and hair color, etc. Then I will add a short backstory. I have a section for character traits (lazy, loves cocoa, overly casual, etc), and how those traits play out in behavior.
It makes a good reference point while writing, but it also gives me what I need when I read through the story for that character. And yes, I read through each story for each character before it goes to my editor…yes, that can be a lot of read throughs!
Probably 80% or more of what goes onto the character sheet never makes it into the story, other than being in the character. For background characters that can be as high as 90%, but I could pick up that character and write the story from their point of view at any time because I know them that well.
My characters are people. Sometimes I hang out in the bar in my head with them while they tell me who they are.
What about you, Reader? What do you look for when you’re reading?