One of my primary goals as a writer is to create characters with whom readers can relate. And when I read a story, whether or not I am able to relate to the characters is one thing that will make or break that story for me.
To me, relatability is largely dependent on the reader’s understanding of the motivations behind the character’s actions. I think that as long as we understand why our favorite characters make whatever choices they do, we can forgive them for doing stupid or careless things.
But that motivation must be clear. Absolutely clear. Otherwise, we lose our ability to identify, and readers get frustrated with the characters they are supposed to love, because we don’t understand them.
I recently read such a book. It was a sequel to another book, which I very much enjoyed. Unfortunately, the story had changed so dramatically, and the main character’s motivation seemed to change in every chapter. In the end, I still didn’t understand why the main character had chosen a difficult path that could have been easily avoided with an honest conversation with another trustworthy character. Because of this, I became frustrated. I felt as if the author had forced the main character to make this decision just to make the climax more dramatic, when unfortunately, it had the opposite effect.
The good news is that there were some great scenes, some relatable, sob-worthy scenes, that made me care enough about the characters to want to see what happened at the end. The bad news is that I’m not sure I’ll be willing to see them through another book.
So here is my question for this week:
What is one important story element that makes or breaks a story for you?
(PS Please don’t ask about the book mentioned above—that’s not the point, and I’m not telling.)