Consumers are fickle, simple people, including you, me, and the bipolar uncle who lives down the street who does laundry as a hobby. Each and every one of us knows what we want, and when it comes to being a consumer, it’s simple, each and every one of us consume what we like. Appeal to our interests enough and consumers will buy what you’re selling. The tricky part is when you’re selling to more than one of us.
People are amazing, diverse and wonderful living beings. That’s why marketing is hard, and has its own department in universities and businesses and the like, because touching the heart of more than one specific individual can be tricky. It’s easy to get people to like you when you’re up close and personal. When you’re behind the name of a company, a website, a social media site or even a blog, things get complicated. It’s harder to convince anyone to invest in you if they don’t know you.
Take someone like me for example. I need authenticity for any relationship I have. I like good things. I’m selfish. I’m flawed and I like stories and good characters. I start hating places like Twitter because almost every writer I follow starts marketing their book 24/7. Am I even going to start looking at that book if I don’t even know who you are? I don’t think so.
That means, the more you’re obsessed about advertising, and not actually connecting with the people you’re trying to get to like you, you’re not going to get very far.
Maybe that’s why this blog hasn’t burst in popularity. Guess I don’t have the marketing guts in me. Hate to admit it, but I’ve been selfish. I’ve half-assed posts before. I call myself a Literal Loudmouth yet sometimes my own darn rule system just loves to jump in and censor me. If I were in most people’s shoes, I wouldn’t follow me either. I’m very grateful to the people who have; seriously, you’re all angels. Thank you.
I’m not going to give you any more on marketing mumbo jumbo because I think you’ve all figured out by now that I’m not an expert on selling things. I can’t win a heart other than meeting a person face to face and actually talking to them.
Funny thing is, that might be one of the reasons mascots are so productive: they do all the connecting for companies. If your kid plays with Tony the Tiger out in the backyard, you know he’s going to want to buy the cereal he’s on.
Same with movies, TV shows and books. Characters are the key to reeling anyone into what you’re making. If you’ve got the right recipe for a character, then you can successfully capture at least most of the population of the United States of Consumer America. Characters are necessary because they’re the things that tie the whole blockbuster package. They’ve been shaped by their setting and occupation, they’re driven by the plot, and they’re the ones who bring the baddies out of the dark corners of the movie universe. If I don’t like the person who’s doing all the cool things, I’m not going to care what happens to him. That means I’m never going to watch another movie where that character is involved.
The way to make Best-Selling characters? Bring out the self you would want to be.
Children go out into their backyards, tie red towels around their necks and run around with their arms in the air for more than just the heck of it. Superman, Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, all of those comics and movies make millions of dollars for a thousand reasons. One of those reasons is because we see a person we would want to be. I certainly wish I could be superman, to have enough powers to break the desk job and go help people from disasters. We wish we were people who could change the circumstance of disasters. We want to be something more than they guy who works eight to six every day, or a housewife doing chores all day, we want to be something more. We love seeing this man we wish we could be succeed and kick some major alien butt while he’s at it.
We need to want to be/like this guy. But there’s more.
There is a reason why children stop watching children’s movies, because the older you get, the more you realize someone like Dora the explorer is really quite slow and not believable.
You need to give your character connections to reality. He can’t be entirely fictional, although, there is some leeway on the amount of fiction you can have. What you also need to create a character people can love is if he makes choices that are believable.
When the character makes choices, there’s something there in the back of our minds that click and think I might’ve made that decision. Or not. The decisions they make have to make sense. You don’t need a tragic backstory to make that happen, you might just have to establish your character is selfish. Selfishly wonderful, might I add. You do have to have a trait that makes someone want to root for their wish to be.
One more thing that might help your character be even more wonderful is if his goal is something we wish for him to achieve.
If the guy’s goal is to go blow up a building for the heck of it, trust me, I won’t want anything to do with this guy, unless the explosion is flashy and good for the camera. Then, after the explosion is over, I’ll probably leave and forget about the movie, again.
Make your characters wonderful people. Something you wish you could be. Be creative, and be true to yourself. Human memories are great compost piles for great characters.
See you next week!