When somebody gets legitimately angry at me because something bad happens to a character and doesn’t speak to me for several hours because they’re just going to yell at me, that’s when I know that I’ve done a good job in writing that character.
When somebody tells me they cried, or that the sympathized or saw themselves in that character, and that it evoked painful memories, that’s when I know I’ve done a good job in writing that character.
When somebody tells me they were snorting with laughter, or that they were in hysterics over something a character did, that’s when I know I’ve done a good job in writing that character.
This doesn’t always happen. It’s hard to write consistently good characters, ones that people can identify with or care about. It’s almost impossible. But when it does happen, it’s like gold. When my room-mate came in, threw my book down on my bed and told me she was angry at me before picking it up again and cradling it, I was thrilled. Because when readers stop viewing people as characters in a novel and start viewing them as actual people, I feel like I’ve won the writing jackpot. I’ve managed to create believable characters, flawed characters, that people legitimately care about.
I won’t say that I don’t care if nobody reads my book, or that I won’t care if this this entire venture fails, because I will care. But knowing that I wrote characters that people care about is a huge victory that, even if this is a small stepping stone in my life and doesn’t have an impact on the rest of it, tells me I at least did something right.