Take Your Book From Meh to Marvelous: Why Every Writer Needs a "VIP"

by Ruth Harris

Male or female, good guys or bad girls, famous or infamous, VIPs are the Very Important Persons who go their own way, do their own thing, make their own rules and don’t give a damn about your plans, your ideas, or your outline.

You create them but they have a life of their own. They bust in and take over and they give your story sizzle and zip and make it pulse and throb with energy and reader appeal.

They can be realistic or fantastical, aspirational or ordinary, nuts or normal. The VIP can be the protagonist or antagonist, a sidekick or bff, or the bit player who’s a scene stealer. The VIP can be a toy, an alien or an animal, a vampire, a wizard, a zombie.

They live in a penthouse or the hood (or even be homeless). They hang out on the “right” side of town or the wrong side of the tracks. They have too much/not enough sex with Ms. or Mr. Right (or Wrong). They can be adulterous or monogamous, gay or straight, drunk or drugged, billionaires or unemployed, on the make or on the lam. We’re talking the housewife-spy, the accountant-assassin, the foul-mouthed teddy bear, the superhero in tights.

VIPs never do the expected or the conventional. They can be the foundation of a long-running series or a larger-than-life character in a standalone. They can be aspirational, admirable, too-good-to-be true, psychopathic, repellent, murderous but they can—and will—rescue you from the plot blahs and bail you out of blocks, glitches and dead ends.

You know who I mean but, to name names:

Realistic? Uh-uh. Unforgettable? Absolutely. Likeable? Sometimes but not always. Relatable? Mostly not. Admirable? Only now and then. But are we interested in them? Do we want to know what they're going to do next? Of course we do.

Memorable, vividly drawn characters like these are the VIPs who create the forward motion that makes a book a page turner. They are the writer's best friend and there are, obviously, no hard rules about how to create them. How can there be when they are distinctive and original and, sometimes, even the opposite of each other?

There are, however, guidelines that will help you get started to create characters readers can't get enough of.

VIPs can—and will—do the shocking, the unexpected and, as a consequence, will give you—and your story—an immediate jolt of energy.

You bring them to life, you fret about them, you get them into—and out of—trouble, you bail them out when necessary and save them from their own stupid mistakes but there is one thing above all you must remember about VIPs: they will never, ever, not once, say thanks. ;-)

by Ruth Harris (@RuthHarrisBooks) March 27, 2016.

What about you, Scriveners? Do you have a VIP in your WIP? Have you ever had a character march into your story and take over? 



Love And Money, sweeping in scope yet intimate in detail, is a story of family, secrets, murder, envy, and healing--originally published in hardcover by Random House.

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"A SPECTACULAR, RICHLY PLOTTED NOVEL. Racing to a shocking climax, this glittering novel is first-class entertainment, a story of love and money, and how both are made, lost, and found again." --New York Times


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