Do you have to care about your characters and their story to write it? Do you have to invent characters you like before writing?
Some people say yes. I say no, at least not at the beginning of the process.
True, it’s more fun if you care. The best fun out there. But fun isn’t the only enjoyable aspect of writing. There’s also challenge. And there’s a lot of challenge in starting to write a story where everything is up in the air, where you know nothing about your characters.
When I care about characters, I usually mean that I like them, and/or want to see them conquer their enemies, achieve self-actualization, whatever their story goal might be. If I wouldn’t necessarily want some of them to be my everyday buddies, they would be interesting people to meet at a party and then back away from, slowly. Care can also mean I want to see them lose their evilly-gotten gains, be insulted, or simply get killed gruesomely in the course of the story.
Trying to find reasons to care about a character, now there’s a challenge. What could Blank Slate possibly do that would make me love him? Or, alternatively, make me want to stick an icepick in his ear? And why would he do that? And how will he go about showing it to the reader? And who will get in his way?
See, instant story. Because I didn’t have a character I automatically felt something for.
Related post: Learning Who Your Characters Are.