Every Sunday, the feature SHANNON MUIR’S MYSTERY OF CHARACTER on SHANNON MUIR’S THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF focuses on the art and craft of writing from Shannon’s perspective, or gives you insight on her process as an author.

This week features Shannon looking into aspects of relationship and character, to the reader as well to other characters in a story.

This is an updated version of two columns previously done at a sister site, combining them into a single topic.

What makes a character attractive?

By this, I’m not just meaning the physical characteristics of a character. I’m also not meaning what causes other characters in the story.

What makes characters attractive to readers?

The character doesn’t have to be ‘likeable,’ to throw around a sometimes overused (in my opinion, anyway) buzz phrase. It’s not even required that the character be a hero; more than a few anti-heroes are attractive to readers. So what seems to be the commonality?

What seems to matter is that the character be someone the readers care about. Even this seems like a real surface statement, because going back to the anti-heroes, they’re not always good people; still, readers can care about finding more about the character. That investment can only be made if writers set up interesting enough characters (please note I didn’t say complex; archetypes can be interesting too) to encourage readers to invest in them.

This topic of whether characters and if they can be related to, and how they interact with other characters, can extend to how characters relate in their most intimate relationships. A character can either be in a relationship exclusively, or in pursuit of a relationship, or even not really be dedicated to any one person.

However, is having romantic relationships a necessary aspect of character to make them well-rounded?

My thought is not necessarily. It could be a characteristic of a character that he or she puts love of career above being a deep love of someone else. Perhaps it is crucial to character development that he or she suffered trauma that does not allow for the loving of others in any way because too much hurt is involved.

Ultimately, it’s about the needs of the story.

Until next time!