Compelling Characters

 You’ve got a knockout concept and rough idea of how the story will pan out. Now learn about hooking your readers with compelling characters your readers care about and relate to. 


The key to a compelling character is making them feel real, relatable and interesting. 

Real Characters:

To be authentic, your character will need to feel 3D. It’s hard for readers to get behind ‘flat’ characters so give us the depth and details we need to help bring them to life in our minds. Even if WE don’t know what they ate for breakfast and what they dreamed of last night, YOU should. Some authors recommend hot-seating characters or having an imaginary dialogue with them. Others base characters on personalities or people they know. If you were going to liken your main character to an acquaintance, who would it be? Perhaps it’s a combination of people? Not all this information has to go into the book, but the research helps to ‘flesh-out’ your protagonist. 

Relatable Characters:

It is worth bearing in mind that in picture books the main characters are, more often than not, a child or an animal/object with childlike characteristics. This is because picture books are primarily for children, and readers want 

to believe that they are the protagonists at the heart of the action, taking on the persona. In stories with transformational arcs, which are the most common kind of arc, characters are the vehicle for your story and are introduced in the first spread.

They must have a clear but ambitious problem to solve or to goal to achieve, which they usually succeed in. It must be something that a child can empathise with and have an interest in. Children are unlikely to want to read about a carrot in need of money to pay the bills! 

Interesting characters:

Do work hard to think about your character and what about them will draw in your reader? What’s their hook? What’s different from other similar characters in other books? It’s fine to write about mice or bears or rabbits, but what about them will make their story goal *even more* challenging, ambitious, engaging? You are forgiven for being unkind to your characters at this story building stage. Think ‘Giraffe’s can’t Dance’ or ‘What the Ladybird Heard’. These 

characters have the odds stacked against them …but this is what makes the story an interesting one to read! We have to believe they might fail. 

Before you start writing about your character, make sure you are clear about; 

– Who the main character is (Be aware that too many characters can be confusing. Do they all earn their place?) 

– What their emotional journey will be (internal arc) 

– Why this will be difficult (external goal) 

– What the reader needs to know about them and when (think foreshadowing/ setting up something that will become important later on) 

– How, why and what about your character will pique the interest of your reader 

 Amy Sparkes’ wrote some fab #WednesdayWritingTips on Twitter last summer;