Characters & Target Audiences

“Writing is a little bit like prostitution. First you do it for love. Then you do it for a few friends. Then you do it for money.”


All those pure souls who insist they exclusively write for self-expression and art’s sake, please leave this post now. It isn’t going to get any prettier. I started with a quote comparing writers to whores, so don’t act so surprised.

Those who have stayed aren’t expecting writing fiction to make them overnight millionaires. Instead, they yearn for the day readers pay a fair price to receive a piece of fiction the reader already wants to read. Charging for your product and your service doesn’t cheapen it. 

Giving something away for art’s sake creates an odd assumption humans have about value. The more something costs, the more value they assign, no matter what anyone else thinks. There is a tipping point at what the reader is willing to pay. But charging a fair and reasonable cost for your hard work establishes your worth as a professional writer.

Successful Writing and Marketing

As a writer in the process of completing a paranormal fiction novel, I have discovered two critical points: developing your characters before writing the story and knowing your target audience. These two points directly affect each other and help control consistency and flow within your story. I am in the beginning stages of writing, but even if you have a completed manuscript, edits can be made that won’t change your style or voice but can make a marked difference in the sale of your book.

I immediately discovered I would benefit from creating complete character profiles; up to now, I have let the characters lead me willy-nilly, often to the story’s detriment, except for those magical moments when a character is developed enough to take over the narrative and surprise even me. I frickin’ love when that happens.

Why Is Full Character Development Important?

We all know people who have exited our lives, some permanently. One of the perks of being a writer is they can live again in our storytelling, and we can love them or hate them again in narratives. We can also work out past traumas by un-aliving them in whatever gruesome manner we choose, but I digress.

You want your reader to care whether a character lives or dies. Having a reader brought to tears over the demise of a character you created is some of the highest praise you will ever receive. The only way to have a reader care about a character is to develop that character fully in your writing. The reader needs to feel they know that person, understand their feelings and drives, and can relate personally to that character.

The reader will continue the story you have written in their heads. They will decide whether the character deserves to live, die, succeed, or fail. When they have a chance to share those feelings on social media, it will directly reference you and your work. You can’t buy endorsed advertising better than that.

Character Development

My process:

  • Understand that you must present the character through actions and reactions, not telling the reader who they are. Yes, expressing their thoughts is good if used sparingly. Don’t let your writing sound like a fourth-grade primary reader of “See Spot run. Spot is a fast dog.”
  • Set the physical characteristics, age, stature, mannerisms, and everyday actions.
  • Set the emotional and intellectual traits such as political, social, and religious beliefs. 
  • Build the background, social role, and job.
  • Give all characters motivation and dreams. All characters need some significant flaws to be relatable.
  • Establish their relationship with the other characters in the story. Flesh out those connections, and you will find scenes developed you never intended to write but the story demands it.
  • Draw the character. I make a crude sketch of what the character looks like. I also use pictures I run across on the web of someone who looks like my character acts.
  • Keep those pictures handy in front of you as you write. Images can bring the character to life in a fantastic way.
  • Finally, allow changes in character to happen. 

If you argue that you don’t want to limit your character by a set-in-stone description, you have a backspace button on your keyboard. Use it. Change your essential character traits as the story unfolds or as a changing storyline demands it. People do change, and redemption, as well as karma, can happen.

My characters live in my head all the time. I don’t develop a character out of thin air; I base them on interesting people. I meet and think, “Oh, parts of you are so going into one of my stories.” That can be a positive or negative thing. If negative, I have to be more diligent in combining and changing character traits and facts so as not to commit slander.

Know Your Target Audience

I have asked myself what kind of book, in line with my interests, I would love to see in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. What is the book of my dreams, one I would pace myself in reading because I don’t want it to end? The holy grail of books.

Don’t limit yourself in imagining this book. Go for it, demand the incredible, describe what you want, and set all the expectations you would like fulfilled by a writer.

Then become that writer.

I use a physical store image because I m a very visual person. If you fare better with imagining, say, Amazon suddenly announcing the book of your dreams, that works also. The point is that writings you are passionate about reading are also the work you will feel passionate about creating. That energy will show in your finished project.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What type of person do I dislike the most? What are their actions and traits that annoy me?

What kind of character would I want to succeed, forget how the world judges them? Who would I root for? Anyone familiar with the series Dexter will know even a serial killer can have a solid fan base.

Then ask yourself, what world would I love to live in, no matter how fantastical?

Finally, ask yourself the eternal question that sparks any writer’s imagination: What if?

Suggested References

In a previous post, Antagonists & Character Traits, I point out common mistakes, including making them one-dimensional or cliche, failing to give them a backstory or motivations, or making them too similar. It’s also important to ensure that actions are consistent throughout the story and have a clear goal.

I am currently reading and highly recommend Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean M. Pltt & Johnny Truant. This book covers everything from knowing your market, story, and characters to post-production. I receive no compensation for this referral.

My gauge in proving a reference book’s value is how much highlighting I do of the text. By Chapter 12, there is highlighted content every second to the third page. I lose interest quickly if I see little or no benefits in a particular reference material. 

Our Work Matters

For better or worse, we care about the people who have impacted our lives, and in writing, we can affect the reader’s lives by resurrecting them in part or whole. Isn’t that the whole point of creating a story, to reach that reader searching for the type of story you have written and touching their lives?

And not for nothing; it sells books.

Author: morgan77young

I write fiction and article content. Living in the PNW, dreaming of the Sierras.

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