What’s the difference between a page turner and a book you never finish? Well aside from the way it’s written and what the book is about, there’s one major difference you’ve probably never noticed.
Does the character interact with the plot or do they shape it?
I’m willing to argue that this one wording difference makes a book so much more engaging. But first let me explain what I mean. Many authors come up with the plot and then stick characters in, often times before they’re fully formed. While this isn’t innately bad I can make the consequences less thrilling.
What makes a novel truly spectacular is when the character’s actions change the perceived outcome of the plot. For instance having a character not kill the bad guy because he was surrounded by dogs (and your main character is afraid of dogs) half way through the book will be so much more psychologically traumatizing for the character because it was within their grasp. This is just one example, but I think that incorporating your character’s backstory into the plot can make the difference between passive characters, and those who are truly engaged in the plot.
This post was inspired by the book Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice
If you found this interesting you might also enjoy last weeks post: What Makes a Hero and Why Is It So Hard to Write One?