It’s time to talk about character because it’s often extremely overlooked. Characters are what drive a story, and they are who people identify with as they learn the lessons and feel the emotions the story brings forward.
From the first page, we identify with and put ourselves in the place of the protagonist. And, I am not only talking about fiction novels. Every time we read a nonfiction book, we are still following a character. It’s more evident in a memoir as it’s a bit of a blend between fiction and nonfiction and often reads like a novel but is a true story. And then there’s also the how-to business or inspirational book. Those still have stories in them. If it doesn’t then, it’s an instruction manual, or a textbook and I don’t coach those. The best example of how well story is done in a nonfiction, personal development book, look no further than anything by Brené Brown. She is a master storyteller. She shares stories about herself and her family or people that she knows.
Remember that if you are writing about yourself, in a personal development book or a memoir, you know who you are, but your reader doesn’t know you that way. You need to describe yourself as a three-dimensional real human being. You are a well-rounded character already in your mind, put that out on the page as well. More on this below.
Fictional characters also need to be well-rounded. You need to have the antagonist, the protagonist, and all of the other characters who are in your book be three-dimensional. What do they look like, sound like, smell like? They need vices. They need preferences. They need a goal, motivation, and conflict. They need an arc; which I define as a belief that they have at the beginning of the book that is completely changed by the end of the book. The middle is the point of no return where they could never go back to believing what they believed in the beginning. You also need that in your memoir. To a lesser extent, you still need character development in your personal development or a business how-to book within the shorter example stories you provide.
Writing about yourself
It’s a great idea to interview yourself for your book and keep notes on what you want to include. Share what you know about yourself so well and what the reader doesn’t. Write down your vices, your preferences, where you grew up. What do you believe is true about the world? What are the lessons that you’ve learned that you must include in the book?
Please, don’t forget about character. We’re very often stuck on book structure, and ‘how do I start my book’ is honestly one of the biggest questions I hear and that’s why I have an outlining freebie that I give away. Today, I challenge you to focus on character. They are the most important driver of your story, and of your book.