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The Man Maketh the Clothes

I need to confess something: I arrive late to everything that’s popular. All the things everybody gets really into–games, apps, trends, TV shows–I’m usually about six months behind in catching on (if it’s something I’m going to like anyway). Sometimes, longer than that. I’m slow to keep up with the times. When everyone else has been into something for ages, it’s shiny and new to me.

That being said, I didn’t watch Stranger Things until well after everyone else had already binge watched the first season and fell in love with it. The main reason, apart from my usual being late to the party, is that it just didn’t look like my thing. That’s another quirk of mine–I CONSTANTLY brush things off as not being “my thing” and then when I give it a shot I’m usually really into it. But mostly, yes, I’m not a sci-fi fan, and I’m especially not a fan of the pulpy sci-fi that makes up the plot of Stranger Things, AND I don’t wanna watch a show about kids, yeesh!

Well, you can probably guess what happened when I finally got around to giving it a try. Yep, I found it insanely engrossing.

The thing is, I’m still not a fan of the plot, I think it’s campy and I’ve never liked the evil-for-the-sake-of-evil type villains, but I love the characters, and I find them mesmerizing to watch and to follow their story. And so comes our writing lesson for today.

Have you ever heard someone say “I don’t usually read (genre), but I loved the characters, I couldn’t put it down!” This is indeed a great compliment to hear about your own work, it means you crossed barriers to reach people outside your target audience. Characters are, hands down, what makes a story good. They’re what moves a story. They’re the reason for the story. And no matter if you’re writing about WWII or a grandma who solves murders or a town overrun by interdimensional aliens, it’s your characters who bring readers to the table. It’s your characters who make the story matter.

But what makes a character “good?” Usually three things: they’re interesting, relatable, and sympathetic. That means they’re the type of person you would want to have a conversation with, their struggle or desire is recognizable to you, and you understand why they do the things they do (even when they’re bad things). Of course not EVERY character in your story will appeal widely to everyone, but having at least a few in there pulls in an audience. Having engaging characters who appeal to a large amount of people’s general sensibilities–they want love, protection, fortune, to help their family, to succeed at something important–can make the difference between a flat story and one that really pulls people in, maybe even people who wouldn’t usually read the kind of thing you write. Sometimes, the characters are even more important than the plot.

As another example in TV, Breaking Bad was one of the most-watched and awarded TV shows of all time (and yes, I didn’t watch it until well after it was over and on Netflix). But the concept–a gritty, dramatic crimeworld show about the little man climbing the ladder of success–wasn’t exactly novel. However, the characters were amazing. So much so, even people who don’t watch that sort of thing (me) ended up watching it. It didn’t win a million Emmys because it was particularly unique, but because the characters felt almost too real at times.

So, there you have it. I guess I’ll be watching the second season of Stranger Things when it comes out this month. It was a good reminder for me to try things instead of just brushing them off, and also that it’s the characters, not the background, that makes a story great. Now, let’s see if I can keep up with the times. *waves cane*

Megan Morgan View All

Paranormal and contemporary romance author.

9 thoughts on “The Man Maketh the Clothes Leave a comment

  1. Better late than never on catching up with reading blogs, says I.

    My middle son and I just this week started watching Stranger Things! He said enough people had been telling him how great it was, and I figured I’d start along with him. I do like it, though I’ll probably have to catch up on my own, since he and I are rarely home at the same time. And it might make you feel better to know that I just started watching The Walking Dead two short weeks ago. Um . . . and I started Supernatural after ten seasons were already on Netflix. You’re not the only one who arrives late to the party.

    As far as books go, I completely agree with you that the characters will keep me reading a book I never thought I’d go for. The experience of reading my first zombie-type book, You and Me Against the World, had me completely hooked (I’d secretly picked it up out of curiosity after getting to know the author on Goodreads forums), and I ended up not only reading the second one immediately, but working with that author on four books so far, with more to come. You just never know.

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    • I just finished binge-watching all of season 2 of Stranger Things…oops! The second season is really, really good and gets more into the characters. I’m hooked!

      Amazingly, I’ve actually watched The Walking Dead since the beginning, though it got so monotonous last season I’ve deliberately missed the first two episodes of this season. And I used to be a HUGE Supernatural fan (but didn’t start watching it and catch up until it was already about 6 seasons in) but I ended up dropping it too after about season 8 because it was getting ridiculous. I wonder what popular TV shows I can miss out on this year? 😀

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I’m usually late to watching things too, but it’s mostly because I seem to have a hard time siting down and watching stuff. I rarely feel in the mood for it, and would usually rather watch some youtube video I’ve seen 10 times already.

    If you’re looking for another thing to add to your to watch list, I recommend Buzzfeed Unsolved. I’m not a fan of Buzzfeed stuff really, but Buzzfeed Unsolved “invatigates” supernatural and true crime locations/events. The interesting part of that for me is that one of them is a skeptic, especially the episodes with Shane Madej (he joined in season 1.)

    In regards to the “I don’t usually read (genre), but I loved the characters…” I have to say I’m not really a big fan of the romance/erotica genre, but I really enjoy your books. Granted, your books fall more into the urban fantasy/paranormal genres, but the fact that I end up caring about the character’s and their relationships every time is really impressive! Thanks for all the great stuff to read over the years!

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    • *Read over comment for errors.*

      *Presses post comment.*

      *In the brief second before it posts notice I spelled “Investigates” really wrong.*

      Damn! :p

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    • I swear, I could have written that first paragraph myself! And usually, when I do watch a TV show I watch it with one of my friends online simultaneously (and we chat about it over messaging during). I will have to check out the Buzzfeed Unsolved show. That sounds right up my alley, actually! Especially if someone is being skeptical.

      Awwwwwwwwwww! Thank you SO much! 🙂 ❤ I'm really glad you enjoy them!

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  3. Glad you got hooked on Stranger Things! It is an awesome show, one of the best in the past couple years.
    Characters are key. I’ve had a lot of people read my series even though they don’t read science fiction because they liked the main character and were hooked on his journey.

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