Whether we know it or not, the events and people around us can affect us in ways we don’t even realize, sometimes motivating actions we normally wouldn’t dream of taking. We act out in anger in the blink of an eye before we even comprehend what made us angry in the first place. We shut down in shock when we’re subjected to trauma too great for us to handle. We don’t always choose to act the way we do, but there is always a reason, even if it’s buried deep in our subconscious. The same is as true for our characters as it is for us, affecting everything in our story from plot to conflict to stakes.
The speed at which we introduce our characters can be crucial to whether readers will remember them or not. If we introduce too many too fast, they might not remember their names, or that they had even been mentioned.
Nobody makes it through life without touching the lives of others. While the protagonist and antagonist are the life-blood of the story, secondary characters serve their own purpose and need to be as realistic and relatable as the main characters.
We can’t have a strong story without a strong antagonist. They are the glue that holds the story together. Without them there would be no conflict, no reason for the protagonist’s involvement. In essence, there would be no story. But to really bring our antagonist to life, we need to make them more than just a representative of ultimate evil.
It’s common for first drafts to be a mess as they’re simply meant for placing the foundations of the story and getting our ideas down. You’ll probably find your first draft falls into one of two categories: character-focused with lots of internalization and little action, or plot-focused with lots of action and very little internalization. For the story to feel balanced, it needs a combination of both internalization and action. All of which needs to be driven by the protagonist.
A story can't exist without characters. But with all the different character creation lists out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.