Story Souls: The Magic of Characters

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

I believe stories have souls that breathe immortality into a reader’s life.

An unforgettable story steps beyond “Once upon a time” to a kingdom that captures the heart of a reader forever. Not every story has that golden world, and not every reader experiences the same soul-grabbing story. What lingers as a memorable novel for me may not give you an exceptional read. But what we will agree upon is the story touched us, spoke to us, and we were passionately involved in the lives of the characters and their quest.

The magic kingdom is filled with rare, distinct, haunting, and extraordinary characters who accompany us to our sweet spot of remembrance. Readers and writers dream the character is real and imagine themselves joining the journey. Some readers become the hero or heroine, much like children don super-hero costumes and develop the mannerisms of their favorite character.

How does a writer accomplish this amazing feat? Is there a magic wand to wave over our keyboard?

There’s no fairy dust in writing. It’s all hard work. The writer works hard to discover the heart of a story.

We work hard to create characters who are:

  • Show multi-dimensional traits.
  • Full of life.
  • Possess authentic flaws.
  • Experience solid victories.
  • Demonstrate believable strengths.

We merge them into a setting that is determined to see the character fail by tossing rocks, swords, bullets, bombs, lies, and the hero’s worst fears into their paths. (Think Indiana Jones and his aversion to snakes.)

We offer the character a way out of his predicament, but the hero refuses. When knocked down, he gets back up. When bleeding he smacks on a Band-Aid and keeps moving. When he’s defeated in battle, he understands the war is not over.

  • The characters are unique.
  • The characters are not afraid to love or give.
  • They are secure in who they are.
  • They are confident in their abilities and willing to learn new skills.
  • They accept a higher deity called God who is in charge of the universe.
  • They make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Their appeal is shown in their response to life’s challenges.
  • They inspire us to be better people.
  • They offer hope in a world that otherwise threatens our peace of mind.

Is a writer always successful in establishing an immortal character? Unfortunately, not. But we never give up because it’s in our DNA for each book to be better written than the previous one. We writers are committed to our craft so our stories and their characters will live forever in a reader’s mind and heart.

Think about the last story you read. How would you describe its heart?

Comments 14

  1. DiAnn, you do such a great job of creating characters to inspire us–the kind that have integrity plus the desire to rise above their flaws. Your thoughts here keep us accountable as your fellow writers, to craft memorable characters who will come to life in a meaningful way!

  2. DiAnn, I wanted you to know I just finished reading your The Fire in Ember. I was blown away by this book! It is a Western which is my favorite type of Christian fiction. It had suspense to keep me turning page after page. The characters were intriguing. God certainly blessed you with writing skills which you have used for His glory.

  3. DiAnn, thanks for this information on what should go into the characters in our books. I am writing my first book, a memoir, and I’ve had lots of questions concerning how to develop the people in this true story in a way that touches the readers.

  4. Hi DiAnn,

    The immortal character has attributes of a devout and unwavering believer like Nehemiah, Joshua, Rahab, Noah, Joseph, Abraham, Hannah, Moses, Daniel, Peter, and so many others. Their stories are etched in my memory. Jesus has so many stories doing that. He’s teaching me and making me a far better follower.

  5. As a youngster, I used to love to write stories. I would collect discarded pop bottles and redeem them so I could purchase a Big Chief pad and a pencil. LOL Somewhere along the way, I think the world wore my imagination down and I quit writing for many years. Then, as God so often does, He revived the wonderful gift of writing in me and I ended up making a career from it. Now, I gladly write for Him.

  6. DiAnn, thanks for the valuable information on characters. I love books that give me characters I can relate to and remember forever. You are the best!!

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