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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > January 2017 > Fiction: People power

Fiction: People power

How do you create irresistible lead characters that will keep readers turning page after page or coming back for book after book? Gary Dalkin offers some suggestions

What makes a compelling fictional character? Clearly not all fictional characters are equally attractive to the reading public. But just what is it that keeps readers turning the pages to follow the adventures of particular characters? What makes a character into an icon?

Ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances On one level it is not simply a matter of character, but character plus story. Almost everyone you meet has a compelling tale to tell about something that happened at some point in their lives, but you likely wouldn’t want to read their entire biography from cradle to grave.

Similarly, those stories in which we find compelling characters don’t usually recount the character’s entire life, but pick a particular part of that life, the most compelling part. A good author knows where to begin and end. If the novels form part of a series then each book will explore a particularly compelling period from the character’s life – perhaps the character is a master spy and each book tells the story of an especially dangerous assignment. Even with an extraordinary character at hand, Ian Fleming never wrote a book about James Bond spending a fortnight on Bournemouth beach.

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About Writing Magazine

• STAR INTERVIEW WITH LEE CHILD, the multi-million selling creator of the Jack Reacher novels • Writing wisdom from the great Greek thinkers – rules that have stood the test of time • How to make your historical fiction stand out, and top tips on the genre from author Nicola Cornick • Study the short story masters to learn the art of the unreliable narrator • The magazine sleuth - how every magazine tells you exactly what its editor needs

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