Updated: Nov 21
A case study of An African Night’s entertainment by Cyprian Ekwency
The success of your novel depends heavily on your characters; the whole story usually revolves around them anyway. That is why writing interesting, distinctive, memorable characters is crucial.
My name is Hadiza Bagudu. I am an author and a poet, and I am here to teach you how to write memorable characters that your readers will love and relate to, ensuring the success of your novel.
This is episode 3 of my creative writing series titled- How to write Memorable Characters using the Nigerian Novel – An African Night’s entertainment. We will examine what makes a great character and how to write them so that the reader will be hooked from the beginning and be invested in the journey of the character until the end.
So, what makes a memorable character?
1. Flaws: Your character must be flawed. Why? Because nobody is perfect, and everybody wants to know that they are not alone in their pain. Seeing your character have a flaw they must work on will make your reader sympathize with the character and become invested in their growth. A character that started with a flaw of some sort will have to work on it and either win or lose in the end. That is the journey. For example, in an African Night’s entertainment by Cyprian Ekwency, the three main characters: Alhaji Shehu, Abubakar, and Zainab, all have flaws. For Alhaji Shehu, it is because he could not have children and desired to get one at all costs. For Abubakar, it’s his poverty and inability to let go of his anger, while Zainabu’s indecisiveness made her easily deceived by the Alhaji. The three of them took us on a journey of their flaws to an interesting but satisfying end.
2. Fears and Dreams: Your character must be afraid of something, but at the same time, they must have a dream that is so powerful that they would face that fear head-on to achieve that dream. The story’s conflict must be resolved by the end, and overcoming or succumbing to that struggle makes the character worth investing in and keeps the reader interested. e.g, Abubakar’s revenge journey, despite the obstacles, his fears, and his ability to push through all of them until he achieves his objective, is what makes An African night’s entertainment such a good read.
3. A clear Goal: Your character must have a clear goal that they work towards, and your readers must be aware of it. Even if it is unclear how they would achieve it, your reader must know where the character is going. As we know, Alhaji Shehu would do anything, no matter how dubious, to obtain the woman that would give him the son he desires, and Abubakar would move mountains to get his revenge. How they are both going to do that, we don’t know, but we know their motives, and we are interested in the outcome. The scariest villains believe in a cause or a higher goal. Their belief is strong, but their moral compass is corrupted. They believe they are doing the right thing and their actions are bigger than themselves. That is what makes them terrifying.
4. The story should revolve around your characters: That needs to be said because writers sometimes fall into the trap of trying to make their stories interesting by cramming in multiple side characters and only derailing from the main characters. While having side characters is good, you must pay more attention to the main characters. You need to make it clear from the beginning who the main characters are; even if the side characters have their own stories, those stories must complement the main character’s journey. Otherwise, it is just a distraction that you should do without.
5. Good Physical Description: You should give the reader a good physical description of your characters so they can picture them in their minds. And the most memorable characters have some physical features or mannerisms that set them apart from others. Maybe it’s a scar or a unique smile or eye color. Or even the way they walk or talk. Something that would leave an impression on your readers’ minds and create a connection with the character. Abubakar had a scar on his face and one ear missing, making him stand out so much that the robbers mistook him for one of them. That is memorable.
In conclusion, memorable characters are essential to grab your reader’s attention and get them so invested that they will read the story to find out what happens to them. Therefore, you need to focus on understanding who your characters are, what makes them tick, their dreams and fears and most importantly, what goal they hope to achieve, and then try to express it as much as possible for your readers to digest. That is what makes a good story.
I hope you learned a thing or two from today’s blog. If you did, please check out my other blogs and podcasts on creative writing series on YouTube and my website: www.hadizabagudu.com. Thank you for reading. Have a great day.