Characterization plays a vital role in any good book. If the reader doesn’t connect with the characters, she will likely stop reading. A key element of character development is the pace at which the author discloses vital information. Revealing the juicy details at just the right moment increases interest and creates suspense. An author who masters this technique keeps the reader turning pages; likewise, a screenwriter with the same talent keeps the audience glued to the screen.
Jane Austen, my favorite classical author, was a master at making the reader wait for full disclosure. She allowed readers to draw their own conclusions before she revealed all the facts. Not until three quarters of the way through Pride and Prejudice does the reader begin to learn the truth about the arrogant Mr. Darcy and the charming Mr. Wickham, and since we see everything from the heroine’s point of view, we are as shocked as she is about the revelations.
Contemporary author Kristen Heiztmann also does an amazing job of drawing the reader into her novel Indivisible by offering only hints at the history between hero and heroine Jonah Westfall and Tia Manning. Within the first few pages we witness the tension between them, a reaction that’s overtly antagonistic. As we continue, the puzzle pieces gradually fall into place until we have the full, heart-rending picture of their past. This process invokes compassion and builds hope. Heitzmann ensures the readers are fully invested in the characters, convincing us to keep reading to find out what happens to them.
One of the best examples of character development on television is the CBS/ION crime drama Flashpoint. In “Team Player,” the sixteenth episode of the fourth season, the audience meets Charlie, a young man whose escape from a mental institution has the Strategic Response Unit on high alert. Charlie’s desperation and aggression make us think the worst of him, but as his history unfolds, we see there’s more to Charlie than meets the eye. The writer, Michael MacLennan, parcels out information to the audience at the perfect intervals to keep us riveted to the story.
A writer’s mastery of character development often determines whether a book stays in our hands or on the shelf. The books I’ve mentioned here are definitely worth the read. Follow the links to check them out, and feel free to share your recommendations in the comment section.