As a writer, you need to understand the value of your characters.
You can write an amazing story, but if the characters are boring – no one is going to read it. But what defines boring?
One of the biggest mistakes writers make is thinking that people only want to read about good things – they want the characters to get the girl, find the perfect job, win the lotto … unfortunately, that’s not the case. And just like in reality, no one likes someone who “wins” all the time. It’s boring!
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true – we want to see other people fail. And it’s not because we are horrible people – it’s because we want to know that those perfect people also have their flaws. And watching a character in a novel try, and try again, is much more interesting than watching them succeed all the time.
It adds a sense of nervousness, “will they or won’t they”, and it helps the reader relate more. Unfortunately, we don’t all lead perfect lives.
Why you need to let them fail
These are four reasons why you should let your characters fail.
No one likes perfection: Mary Poppins wasn’t even perfect. No one is. So why would you make the characters in your book perfect? It takes away the realism. If you want your characters to be more human, then sorry – but they have to fail at some things. Relatable = Likable and if people find something in common with the characters in your novel, they’re likely to stick around.
Constant success is boring: If your character always does everything right and never makes mistakes, your readers will be yawning in no time. There’s no mystery – we already know they’re going to succeed in everything they do, so why bother reading? Adding disagreements, guilt, miscommunication and conflict is a great way to keep readers interested.
Change is important: We discussed this in our other blog. The fact is, everyone changes and through making mistakes or failing, it proves to the reader that your characters are no different. Change is a natural progression in life and as such, should be a natural progression in your story.
Humans are complex: You need to recognize that humans are complex. We’re certainly not black and white, we’re all kinds of color. We’re irrational, brave, terrified… we offer bad advice and we ignore good advice. And again, if you want your audience to relate to the characters in your book, you want them to be as “human” as possible (even if they are aliens with 30 arms and a robot brain).
How can you include failure in your story
Failure for your characters doesn’t have to be complex.
There are actually plenty of ways you can include failure into the storyline, and most are quite simple. They’re generally easy to write and will help you to determine another path for your storyline.
Here are a few examples:
- Refusing to take someone’s advice
- Trusting someone who isn’t telling the truth
- Not accepting help
- Overhearing incorrect information
- Failing to do something physically
- Arriving too late to an event
- Getting simple directions wrong
- Losing something that’s important to the storyline
- Not saying something that needs to be said
- Forgetting an important event or item
- Rushing to do something
While there are plenty of ways your characters can fail, what’s most important is how they get back up again. How do they rectify the situation? That’s what readers essentially want to know.
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