My favorite scene in Antoine Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince takes place when a fox asks to be tamed by the Little Prince.
The Prince asks, “What does that mean – ‘tame’?”
“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. “It means to establish ties.”
“‘To establish ties’?”
The fox goes on to explain, “To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other…To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”
Maybe it’s all the coffee I’ve been drinking this morning, but the fox’s explanation seemed especially relevant to character development. For any character an author writes about, odds are, there are thousands and thousands of similar characters in thousands and thousands of other books. The question becomes: how does the author establish ties between the character and the reader, make the reader feel a need for the character and, above all, make that character unique in all the world?”
Ah, to succeed in creating ties to the reader and to tame my characters! Hmmm…how the heck am I going to do that? I’m not sure, but I suspect it will involve drinking a lot of coffee!