What makes a person deeply fascinating? Knowledge? Mystery? Complexity? Command? Allure? Everyone’s answer is likely different, but I suspect there’s one quality that universally makes others absorbing to us: passionate engagement in life.
Awake, aware, discerning, curious, compassionate, gripped, immersed…we could define this quality in any number of ways. We can also understand what it is not: aloof, cold, hard, apathetic, cynical, unfeeling, detached.
It’s funny, considering how often protagonists in manuscripts are exactly that. How are we supposed engage—and stay engaged for hundred of pages–with characters who are dead inside?
That is not to say that our heroes and heroines shouldn’t ever feel down, discouraged or even defeated. That’s natural and can be dramatic. The measure of engagement is not emotions, positive or negative, but rather caring.
Caring is everything from anger to ennui. Ennui? Sure. Being bored is an inverse measure of engagement. Are you infuriated by the monotony of Phillip Glass’s compositions? There you go.
So how can we ensure that our characters are as passionately engaged on the page as they are in our minds? [Read more…]