In reading several novels by John Steinbeck, I asked myself why I liked his writing so much. Was it his beautiful prose? Was it the fact he won the Nobel Prize? Was it that he is recognized as one of the best American novelists? Not necessarily was my answer to these questions.

And then it came to me: Steinbeck is a wonderful writer because his main characters are so compelling. They are people to whom we relate and for whom we have empathy. They are not especially outstanding and in many instances are vulnerable and beset by human frailty. They are ordinary people whose lives are but a slice of our own, and thus inexorably draw us in.

In my own writing, I have striven to develop compelling characters. At first I found this difficult. Then I realized that I need only look for them in the world around me.

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