Many authors, like myself, get caught up in the plotline or, and this is my big booboo, the setting, the premise. So I’m really into sci-fi, etc, and the thought of watching a movie/reading a book where a building fades in and out of existence, taking its inhabitants to parallel worlds or even places of the universe is pretty cool. But that’s not what hooks the audience. It’s the characters. I know. I know. It’s hard to imagine for those visual effects people out there like me, but maybe this will help.
One of my absolute favorite games to play was/is Beyond Good and Evil. Ah Jade, Pey’J, even Double H, these were the characters who made up that game. The premise was amazing, the gameplay-amazing, the graphics, the collections, the photo taking, all great. But, and I didn’t realize this until I watched a trailer for it this morning, that’s not what made the game for me. It was the characters.
See, Jade is the character you play, and in the sequel us fans have been waiting on for 15, yes 15, years, she’s not in it. I watched the trailer this morning and didn’t recognize a single aspect of it. Pirates? Hmmm, OK, I guess I can pretend pirates had something to do with it. Different graphics? Well, it’s not my cup of tea, but I understand the audience wants the game to be up to date on the graphics side.
That’s right, the main character who you won the game with, the character you strove to keep alive, to save Double H and Pey’J with, the hero who struggled through and survived to live another day, who had the chemistry with Pey’J, yeah-she’s gone. And that was it. I was done with the game. I have no more desire to play the sequel, finite, nada.
This is why character is so important.
When I wrote the sequel to Anya and the Secrets of Cupola, the first chapter was almost a preface. It included, not the main characters of Gevin, Anya, and Taika, but a skinwalker named Azizi. A friend of mine read it and actually stopped themselves to look at the cover to make sure it was the right book as they didn’t recognize it as such. Ew. That’s bad. Real bad. Did I make a mistake? I hope not. I mean, there is a bit of a difference between one chapter without your characters and an entire book. Just look at Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Now granted, my books don’t have movies and millions of fans to help the story stay in your head, but Azizi was mentioned in the first book, just like Riddle was in the Harry saga.
So by now you’re asking yourself what my point is. My point is that even though the setting, the premise, the built world is amazing and spectacular and will draw readers in like a mosquito on an otherwise perfect day, you’ll lose readers without good characters, and believable ones at that. Until next time 😉