Why do I give my characters baggage?

As a reader, what grabs your attention in those first few pages that keeps you going?

When we pick up a book, a couple of things need to happen in order for us to continue reading it. One, something needs to catch our interest—a hook. This can be a mystery that needs solving, the promise of romance, or suspense that leaves us turning pages to find out where the story is going. Second, we need to connect with the characters in the story.

Yes, characters that are quirky and unique can be stimulating, but readers need more than that, we need a reason to care about them, reason enough to draw us in and chase them along the pages of an entire book.

Who wants to read about flawless individuals with perfect lives? Boring!

Characters are at their most interesting when they show up with baggage. The rare person leads a charmed life. Everyone has problems. We can relate to those troubled characters because they seem human, like real people, with real issues. We understand them.

For the most part, we are an empathetic society. We root for the underdog, pray that the downtrodden stay resilient, and that the oppressed can someday become heroes. We want them to become stronger people because this is what we want for ourselves. It is a reflection of real life.

Moreover, as much as we love to be surprised at the end of a novel, we like closure. Whether the protagonist lives happily ever after or dies…at least let them have changed, to experience some level of personal growth. For a reader there is nothing more satisfying than to follow a troubled character and hope that even in the smallest measure, they are triumphant in the end.

One thought on “Why do I give my characters baggage?

  1. Pingback: Why do I give my characters baggage? | Whispers in the air

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