How To Use Intrigue To Get Readers Invested In Your Character

Intrigue: arouse the curiosity or interest of; fascinate

Most people have suffered some manner of ill-use by other human beings. What makes a character intriguing, in most cases, is how they have adjusted to, and compensated, for that ill-use.

Well-Adjusted Characters

Once a character reaches healing, the story ends. This is generally the rule of thumb in genre fiction. We begin with a tortured or fragmented soul, the person integrates over a series of dramatic events, and finally, the character transcends the shattered past, and becomes a new, stable personality.

As soon as the personality has stabilized, the fictional tale is over.

What Draws Us To The Drama?

Imagine a story where the main character always knows what to do, and what to say. He or she never faces insurmountable enemies, or incapacitating flaws. What would happen in the story? Where would the conflict be? Someone in the story has to be flawed, or else the story is not about anything; the conflict forms the plot.

We see this in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, when the main character solves most of the infrastructure issues in the medieval land through his ingenuity and inventiveness. He eventually is trapped in a compound with his fellow “perfect” people (people who are pragmatic, and value the efficient and egalitarian way of solving problems), being attacked and starved out by the “normal” (see, deeply flawed and dysfunctional feudalists) outside.

This novel externalizes the problem of conflict; the vast majority of stories internalize this conflict.

An Example

Good Writing (fragmented character compensates for interior flaws):

Eueen drew her bow back sharply, her brown-and-white eyelids low as she fixed her gaze on the distant bull. Not in my land, beast, she thought, and she released the arrow with a sharp TWANG! She twisted sharply, and galloped away. She felt, rather than heard, the impact of the projectile in the bull’s thick hide. He roared, and the thunder of massive hooves followed behind her.

Bad Writing (a whole character):

Eueen shot an arrow at the bull, and danced away over the shaggy hills. Once the arrow impacted, the black beast chased after her. Eueen’s heart pounded as she leapt up the sharp gullies and dashed through the low meadows. The bull’s pace increased, and then dropped gradually away. She was sure that he was losing blood. Finally, the thunder of his pursuing hooves fell into intermittent thuds, and she circled back, and shot another arrow into his throat.

What Do We Learn From This?

A character without internal tearing, or emotional damage, has nowhere to go; they have no compelling journey to undertake. We, as readers, have no way to identify with them, or desire to join them in whatever adventures they take on.

Intrigue Is Caused By Internal Fragmentation

Check over your work, and see what state your main characters are in. Are they driven by previous trauma, and do you know what it is, and how they compensate for the ill-effects of their internal distress? Explore internal fragmentation, and you may find that your characters become stronger than ever.

You’ve been reading a blog about writing by Victor Poole. My characters are driven by deep internal fragmentation, which eventually reaches satisfactory resolution, in these books. Monday is Ajalia’s favorite day for applying her master’s chief-mark.