Guest post by Brandilyn Collins

1. Displaying a valued trait such as loyalty, love, or courage.

2. Particularly good at something.

3. Treated unjustly.

This approach can work on its own, although other techniques can enhance it. It’s human nature to feel bad for someone who meets injustice.

4. Wishing for something universally understood.

This includes love, acceptance, purpose. Such desires help soften characters—even those who first come across as selfish or uncaring. So this is a great approach to characters harder to like.

5. Thrust into danger.

6. Thrust into grief.

7. Caring for others, especially at a cost to oneself.

8. Unique, attention-getting.

Your character may do off-the-wall things, may look different or think in unique ways, may have an unusual first-person voice. The possibilities are many. This approach needs to be mixed with at least one other. A character can act in all sorts of unusual ways to make you look twice. That doesn’t mean you’ll like him enough to keep reading.

9. Attempting to overcome a fear or make a change.

Readers identify with this. We don’t like facing our fears or change. But two challenges: (A) Present the problem clearly enough that readers understand what’s must be overcome and why it’s so hard for the character—without loading in backstory. (B) Sometimes this is more of an internal battle. The character may be deciding whether to walk out on a relationship, or he may have conflicting desires. To make an inner struggle compelling in the opening scene, put it in the context of action.

10. Facing an inner struggle.


Brandilyn Collins () is a best-selling author of 30 books. She is known for her Seatbelt Suspense®—fast-paced, character-driven novels with myriad twists and a thread of faith. Brandilyn teaches fiction-writing techniques in her book Getting Into Character. She has won numerous writing awards and is a frequent speaker at writers conferences. Brandilyn and her husband have three grown children and live in the Pacific Northwest.

Which of her techniques above will help your work-in-progress? Tell me in the Comments below.

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