Read a good novel lately? What was it about? Chances are, you could rattle off a synopsis of the plot and the action and the story’s ultimate resolution. However, none of those things are what truly distinguishes one fictional tale from another. For aspiring authors, no matter how unique you think your plot might be, chances are it has either been done before, or something darn close to it. That’s not a problem, though, because the best novels are not plot-driven anyway. Well-drawn, realistic characters – especially the main character – are what really draw in readers and keep them fascinated and engaged.
Plots can easily be forgotten. Though vital to a novel’s success, let’s face it, story lines can often seem rather interchangeable. There is a conflict. Somebody has something that somebody else wants, or is doing something that must be stopped. It all boils down to the essential basics of man vs. man, or self, or nature. Pretty simple.
Characters, on the other hand, can be (should be!) as complex as real life flesh and blood human beings. Consider yourself. Are you one-dimensional? I don’t care if you’re the “simplest” person who ever lived, we all exist on a number of levels. Think for a moment about your very self – the heart and soul of you as a person. You possess a virtually endless supply of attributes. We all have countless things that we love and hate, and our minds are constantly swirling with a rich bounty of thoughts and emotions. We all have a past too, loaded with a dizzying array of history and interactions with others. Moreover, whether they articulate it or not, all people have some kind of dream about the future too, a vision that keeps them going, often overcoming tremendous odds and daunting obstacles to make it a reality.
Wow! The drama and beauty of human life provides all of the material that you will ever need to write a bestseller. In a very real sense, every person who has ever lived constitutes his or her own self-contained universe. Even better, as a novelist, you the author enjoy the luxury of creating as many truly remarkable characters as you can conjure up in your fertile imagination. Yes, it will all take place within the context of your plot, but it is the distinct attributes of your characters that readers will remember and embrace.