Character First Impressions

Apart from our villains, we want our characters to be well-liked by our readers. Every writer wants to believe that at least one of their characters will become a fan favorite. And there are ways of achieving this, but not all the different pointers have to be used all at once. Some of them can just be food for thought.


Show Don’t Tell

A staple of writing, it’s all about the action. Rather than saying, “she is so cool,” show us why this character is so cool. The first impression of a character lasts a lot longer when it is shown through action rather than told through words. 


Establish Empathy or Sympathy

Giving your reader a reason to relate to a character is the fastest way to make a good first impression. People are drawn to characters that reflect themselves, therefore by writing characters that illicit empathy or sympathy from a reader is the best way to create a bond between your reader and your characters. 


Impress the Reader

People are easily impressed by those who are smart, strong, funny, or creative. So if your character has such traits lie creativity, wit, charisma, or proficiency in a certain area of skills, then don’t be afraid to show them off. 


Save the Cat

Save the cat is a writing device used in screenwriting, which is meant to make a character instantly likeable if the first thing they’re shown doing is something good, such as saving a cat. Even if you’re not a screenwriter, you can still employ this in your WIP. 


Establish Mystery or Intrigue

Don’t give us everything right away. Make the reader want to know more by hinting at an interesting backstory or secret that the character might have. Not only will they want to get to know the character more, but they will also stay interested in the story as well. 

Writing Likable Characters

We all want our readers to be invested in our stories. When a reader invests in your story, they are investing in a continued journey with you as a writer. Besides having someone thoroughly enjoy the work that you put so much effort into, having an invested reader can lead to great opportunities such as representation and publication if you’re seeking a more traditional means of publishing, or a loyal fan-base and more clout on social media if you’ve chosen to go with self-publication. Either way, only good things can come for you and your book if you have invested readers. 

But what is the key to success to capturing the hearts of readers? One of the easiest ways to get a reader completely on board with your book is to create likable and relatable characters. Think of all the books that you personally like – how many of them can you honestly say you like them for reasons other than the characters? Sure, the Harry Potter series is cool and JK Rowling outdid herself when she created the wizarding world, but if you stripped all the magic away, you’d be left with only the characters. And that was truly the heart of the books. It was Harry, Hermoine, and Ron that stole our hearts and made us want to keep reading. You can try to counter argue, but deep down you know it’s true. Take any story of any genre and strip away the fantastical settings, the plot twists, the romances, etc. and you’ll see that it’s the characters that are always at the heart of all our beloved books. 

But what is it about certain main characters that resonate with us and make us feel invested in their stories? All these beloved main characters and side characters that we love to discuss at length with friends, cosplay at events, or make fanart for; the one thing that they all have in common is their likability and relatability. So how do you go about creating characters that people like and want to follow?

Here are some tips:

Vulnerability– giving your character a vulnerability is one of the easiest ways to get your character to resonate with readers. This vulnerability can either be a physical one like a handicap or an emotional one. Either way, seeing a character struggle with their own weaknesses, hopes, limitations, or fears is always a way to get readers to see themselves in a character. 

Backstory– kind of lining up a bit with the vulnerability point is backstory. Introducing a why for the character’s actions or thoughts is always a way to make them seem relatable. And looking to their backstory is a good place to start. This is particularly helpful if you want to write an antagonist that is well-rounded and not just a straight up A-hole. Sometimes some of the best villains have some of the saddest or complicated backstories. Take the most recent Joker film. This is a perfect example of a well-rounded villain. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a bad guy, but getting to see his origins definitely helps us better understand his motivations. And in doing so we end up feeling bad for him – something that ends up making him more relatable in our eyes.  

Failure– letting your main character fail isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can definitely help the relatability of a character. We’ve all faced failure within our own lives. We all love an underdog story with the odds stacked against them. Let your character fail and make a courageous comeback. Their resilience will speak volumes with readers because we’ve all been there. 

Morals– most for the heroes of our stories making them be nice helps a bit. We want to think of characters as being generally nice. Characters that show kindness, generosity, or selflessness are generally seen as “good” and you want your characters to be good. No one likes a character that will kick a puppy and laugh. Of course, steer clear of making them a goodie-two-shoes. Some character flaws do make them more “human.” Also, don’t be afraid of giving your villains some morals too. Just because you have a supervillain who wants to destroy the world doesn’t mean that they can’t have a moment of selflessness. How many times do we end up liking villains after they end up redeeming themselves by showing a selfless side to them? Think Shadow Weaver’s sacrifice of herself to save Adora and Catra in Netflix’s She-ra. Personally, I shed a tear at that.

Humor– whether they’re self-deprecating, snarky, or just plain silly, giving your characters some sort of sense of humor makes them relatable to readers. We all love to laugh. It’s the next universal language besides love. So, it only stands to reason that readers would gravitate towards characters that have a funny side to them. And so long as their humor is true to the character’s personality, it will resonate with audiences.

Self-Awareness– let’s face it, flawed characters are the best characters. But the key to a good flawed character is that they’ve got enough self-awareness to be able to say sorry once in a while for their shortcomings. Giving your characters, particularly your heroes and heroines, a moment of “yeah I know I’m an A-hole sometimes but I’m trying” can definitely help readers cut them some slack for some of their more morally questionable actions. 

Fear and Pain– having a character be motivated by their fear or their pain can definitely make them relatable to readers. How many of us in our everyday lives are motivated to action by pain and fear? That 20-page college paper we’ve all written the night before it’s due was definitely written on pure motivation from fear of failure and a painful lack of sleep. Having characters move through plot points based off their fear and pain will definitely make them relatable. After all, nothing is more human in this life than feeling pain and fear, which is why our characters must feel these things too. 

Killing Characters

This seems to always be a divisive subject amongst writers. Some writers wouldn’t dream of killing off one of their characters, while other writers are more than happy to recreate their own versions of the infamous Red Wedding from Game of Thrones within their own works. Within the realm of fiction, character deaths can extend beyond just those of the villains. Side characters and even some main characters can be subject to meeting an untimely death. These are the characters that readers will mourn, especially if they happen to be a fan favorite. As writers, we know that not every character’s story can end in happily ever after. But killing characters can be a delicate art. You don’t want the death to be pointless, you want it to mean something. Below are somethings to keep in mind when you’re contemplating a potential character death. 

Positive Reasons to Kill a Character:

1) Kick off the inciting action or to reveal a hidden secret. Sometimes our main character needs to experience the death of another character in order to get them to begin the proverbial hero’s quest. But at the same time, you don’t want the death to come across as cheap writing or cliched. You want this to be meaningful to the plot. In order for the death to be meaningful to the story’s plot, ask yourself if this inciting action can be kicked off any other way? Or can this hidden secret that is integral to the plot, can that be discovered any other way? If not, then you can proceed with the character’s death.

2) To motivate other characters. Again, death can be a great motivator to both heroes and villains. But you don’t want it to be the sole purpose of their motivation, meaning don’t kill a character just to get your hero or villain started on the path of their character arc and development.

3) To highlight a universal truth within your story’s universe. Sometimes some character deaths have to be sacrificial for the greater good of the story. If death is the only way to highlight a universal truth in your story, then do it. Or if you’re writing a series and you get to a point where there is no other way to illustrate a continuing theme then use a character death. 

4) It’s the only logical way of ending a character arc. There are plenty of ways for your character to come full circle and grow. Death doesn’t always have to be the answer. However, there are times when it is the only answer. As the writer of the story, you will know if this is the only way of wrapping up a character’s arc. 

Negative Reasons to Kill a Character:

1) Solely for the purpose of shocking your audience. No, no, no. You will only make your fan base angry. Don’t alienate your fan base.

2) To start some drama. If you’re killing a character just to spice things up within your story, then you really need to re-evaluate your plot. There are definitely tons of other ways to shake things up without having to kill a character. My personal rule is if you feel your story needs something shocking like a death to save it, then you really need to start from scratch again. 

3) Just for the character development of someone else.Yes, sometimes either a hero’s backstory or even a villain’s backstory will include the death of someone close to them in order to get them started on their respective paths. However, killing a character just for the purpose of further developing another character is not necessary. You can achieve the same effect with a less tragic accident. For example, if your story is about two brothers who haven’t spoken in 10 years, you don’t need to reconcile them by having them lose their mom in a firey car crash. Simply having her hospitalized with a broken leg would be enough to get them back in town and have to face one another and eventually reconcile. You still achieve the character development but without the character death. 

4) You’re unsure how to further the character’s storyline. This more applies to minor characters who sometimes serve their purpose in a story, but then we, as writers, don’t know what to do with them. While the topic of what to do with minor characters after they’ve served their purpose is always up for debate, killing them off isn’t advised. It serves no purpose and if they happen to be a well-received minor character, this can end up angering the fandom. 

5) You don’t like them. We’ve all had characters that we don’t like in our stories. And I’m not necessarily talking about villains. Sometimes as writers we create minor characters or even major characters that, as we get into the writing process, come to find we don’t actually like writing them. Either they’re too boring, we’ve gotten sick of writing them, or we simply can’t connect with them. The easiest solution to this is to remove them all together from the story. Make it such that they’ve never existed within our story’s universe. Sometimes I have found that these characters I don’t like are simply in the wrong story and once I find where they fit, they work much better. I’ve also found that if a character is easily removable from the story, then they were irrelevant to it anyways. Of course, problematic characters aren’t always easily removable like this. Sometimes a character needs to be in a story but we, the writers, just can’t stand their story anymore. Don’t kill them off, find another less dramatic way of writing them out.

Tips to Stay Motivated

Coming into November there are probably a fair few of us who are giving NaNoWriMo a shot. Whether it’s your first time participating or you’re a seasoned vet, there will always be the problem of motivation that arises at some point throughout the month. It’s a natural part of the writing process to reach a certain point where the words don’t flow as easily and you’re finding yourself grasping at straws. When this happens during NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to throw in the towel and give up. But if you want to try to push through and stay motivated here are some tips to pushing yourself to write when you’re not feeling it – they can even be used outside of the sacred writing month of November as well!

Tip 1: Establish a Routine

Getting into a habit and sticking to it is the best way to combat any feelings of burnout. Whether it’s your home office, an outdoor café, your living room sofa, pick a place you’re most comfortable in and make it a habit. You can allot yourself as little as 20 minutes a day, but make sure you squeeze it in. You’ll find that the simple act of making a routine helps you write something, even if it’s not your best work. The key is just getting it out on paper. The editing comes later. Personally, I’ve also found that trying to fit in your writing in the morning works best because as the day wears on you will end up finding more excuses and distractions to draw you away from your writing. I know that’s not what the night owls want to hear but try giving morning writing a chance. It might surprise you.

Tip 2: Get Rid of Distractions

When I write during the week, I usually have a timer that I set for 20-40 minutes – depending on how early I managed to wake up. However, I always place it on the opposite side of the room, face down and notifications off, so I don’t get distracted. If it’s next to me on the table I’ll fall down the rabbit hole of scrolling through social media. If you know that you can’t write without looking at your phone, leave your phone in another room or on the opposite side of the room. If you get distracted checking work emails on your laptop then forgo the laptop and write using pen and paper. If you get distracted doing research for your story then perhaps try plotting ahead of your writing session that way the research is already done and you can just write. This time, however long or short, should be solely focused on producing words. Everything else can wait. And if you know what your weaknesses are in terms of distractions, try eliminating them ahead of time so you can have a productive writing session. 

Tip 3: Daily Goals

Giving yourself a daily word goal helps to keep you on track. Even if it’s something small like 500 words, it’s still something that can serve as a motivator to keep going. If you’re someone who doesn’t necessarily like thinking word count, then maybe make your goal something like finishing a certain scene you’ve been working on or writing another character’s perspective. So long as you have something that you are striving for on a daily basis you can battle against the distractions and writer’s block.

Hope these tips were helpful and good luck this November!

Author Interview with R.L. Davennor

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Fairytale Dragons Author R.L. Davennor.

1. What inspired you to start writing?

I was a reader first and foremost. After tearing through books in grade school and reading every novel in my favorite genre (fantasy), I still couldn’t get enough, and another problem arose: I was now getting in trouble for reading while my teachers were talking. The solution most beneficial to all was to begin writing my own! Writing during class looked an awful lot like note-taking, and it wasn’t long before I began filling entire notebooks with my stories (which I still have to this day). From then on, I was hooked.

2. How do you handle writer’s block?

This isn’t to sound high and mighty, but I truly don’t experience writer’s block now that I’m in the habit of writing something every single day, whether I’m in the mood or not! If I am struggling with a particular passage, I have a few things I do to help flex my writing muscles. Good old-fashioned coffee is at the top of that list, as is putting on some good mood music. If that still doesn’t help, I sometimes need to just accept that the passage I set out to write isn’t getting done today, but instead of quitting entirely, I move on to a section that is more enjoyable or switch to a different project, making a note of what I was struggling with to help me whenever I’m ready to return to the problem section.

3. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Currently, it’s balancing writing and all things author with my day job and other responsibilities. I live alone and work full-time to support myself, so on days I work I’m left absolutely exhausted by the time I get home, and often find that I’m equally as busy on my days off running errands and cleaning. Though it’s hard, I’m pushing through with the goal to one day make writing my job!

4. Which of your books were the most enjoyable to write?

At the time of this interview, I only have one published work: Lyres, Legends, and Lullabies, which is more of a showcase of music I’ve composed rather than a cohesive story. I have two other fantasy trilogies in the works: a dark fantasy epic titled The Blood of the Covenant Trilogy, and a pirate adventure romance titled The Godsworn Trilogy. Though I consider the former my passion project and it’s been in the works since my earliest days of writing, I would say that Godsworn has been more enjoyable to write, simply because I feel freer while doing so. There’s a very set vision I have in mind for Blood of the Covenant, while Godsworn is something I can let loose and have fun writing and creating.

5. What was the inspiration for your Fairytale Dragons story?

When I set out to be part of the Fairytale Dragons Anthology, I knew the most well-known fairytales were likely to be chosen by other authors. I wanted to pick a lesser-known tale both to make my story stand out and to help readers discover a fairytale they may have never heard before. My choice to retell Swan Lake harkens back to my days as a classical musician, and while the tale is deeply familiar to me, it’s definitely not even one of the top ten that comes to mind when people think of the word ‘fairytale.’ As for the retelling itself, considering that Odette is a shapeshifter even in the original, it came easily. One of my critique partners put it best while reading my submission: “You love dark, violent woman, so I wasn’t surprised by [your version of] Odette,” and it’s so true! Most of my works center around such a character, so I didn’t have difficulty morphing the original Odette to fit such a role.

6. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

Yes! As stated above, I’m currently working on wrapping up the first book in The Blood of the Covenant Trilogy, titled Bloodlust. If you enjoy my story in the Fairytale Dragons Anthology, it’s actually a very accurate taste of what to expect in Bloodlust. It’s gritty, dark, violent, and features a female lead who is all of these things and more. The blurb is below, and it’s set to release on December 29th, 2020!

Dragonsblood is more than life.

It’s magic.

But Rebecca Marella couldn’t care less about hers. She’s more concerned with protecting her cousin—even if it means marrying a man she doesn’t love.

Even if it means lying through her teeth.

And even if her desperate choices lead her to violence.

Yet for every line she’s willing to cross, her enemies are two steps ahead. When tragedy strips Rebecca of everything she’s ever known, she’s forced to confront the source of her terrifying power.

And mixing with dragons is a dangerous game.

Saving those she loves will mean blood on her hands—but each drop spilled only fuels the darkness within her. The more it feeds, the more ravenous it becomes, and satiating the beast will cost more than Rebecca was ever prepared to give.

She must salvage her humanity or find herself among the very monsters she swore to defeat.

7. Who is your favorite author and why?

I truly don’t have one individual that stands out above all the rest. There were plenty of authors who helped shape my childhood: Erin Hunter, Christopher Paolini, Cornelia Funke, Rick Riordan, and Suzanne Collins are certainly up there, as are the Warrior Cats Series, The Inheritance Cycle, The Inkheart Trilogy, Percy Jackson & The Olympians Series, and The Hunger Games respectively, but I tend to gravitate towards individual titles rather than the authors themselves. Nowadays, I read mostly self-published works, and have found tons of new gems to follow: notably Clare Sager, Jenna Moreci, and Meg LaTorre with their works Beneath Black Sails, The Savior’s Series, and The Cyborg Tinkerer.

8. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

Jenna Moreci immediately springs to mind! You might recognize her from her very popular and successful YouTube channel, and this was how I originally discovered her as well—but she’s also a very accomplished bestselling author! My current read is her dark fantasy novel The Savior’s Sister, the companion novel to the bestselling The Savior’s Champion, and though I didn’t think it was possible, Ms. Moreci has outdone herself in every possible way in The Savior’s Sister. I was lucky enough to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of the novel as it doesn’t release until September 29th, but if you’re a lover of dark fantasy romance, I highly recommend The Savior’s Series. In addition to writing bestselling books, Ms. Moreci also runs a YouTube channel, Writing with Jenna Moreci, in which she makes weekly videos about everything writing, publishing, and more. I admire the way in which she not only gives back to her community but how professional and kind she’s been in each of the personal interactions I’ve been lucky enough to have with her.

9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love spending time with my partner, reading, caring for my menagerie of pets (I have a cat, four rabbits, a tortoise, three snakes, two frogs, and some fish, and also frequently foster animals from my local shelter), playing video games, and making music either by playing my instruments or composing my own.

10. Favorite artist and/or favorite song?

You can’t ask a professional musician this question! Kidding—but that’s a hard one and the answer will be similar to the ‘favorite author’ question: I really don’t have one, because my taste in music changes by the day, and sometimes by the hour. I listen to quite a bit of classical music, with the mid-late romantic era composers being my favorite (Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Shostakovich, Prokofiev). I love instrumental music in general, as I can’t listen to anything with lyrics while I write as it’s too distracting. Modern favorite instrumental composers include David Chappell, Greg Dombrowski of Secession Studios, and Lucas King.

11. What was your dream job when you were younger?

The first career I ever remember wanting to have is a veterinarian, which makes total sense considering my love of animals, but I’m glad I chose a different path. I’ve seen glimpses of animal surgeries in real life and don’t think I could stomach doing that on a regular basis!

12. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Jenna Moreci for several reasons: she has a professional background in business and marketing, has knowledge of video editing given her YouTube channel, and she’s a bestselling author in her own right, who happens to also write in my genre! I could put all of these skills to use and would love to be mentored by and learn from someone as successful (and hilarious) as her.

13. Where can readers learn more about you?

Thank you so much for the interview opportunity, DSP, and for the great questions! And thank YOU for reading! I’d love to connect with you on any or all the places below!

Website – https://rldavennor.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rldavennor

Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/rldavennor

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rldavennor

Amazon Author Page – https://amazon.com/author/rldavennor

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/rldavennor

To hear my music:

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_ViU2S2HrTc0XXaOHaWRFw

SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/rldavennor