My toddler son loves Thomas and Friends, the show about the helpful train who lives on the island of Sodor and has adventures there. He loves Thomas so much that whenever Thomas is not onscreen, he looks at me and asks, “where’s Thomas?”

I shrug and say, “he’ll be right back.”

Then, my kiddo returns to watching the screen and awaits the return of his favorite character.

There’s a lesson here.

The lesson is that we often consume stories because we like characters. It’s great to have a plot full of tension and intrigue and twists, but if the reader doesn’t care about the characters, the reader will lose interest. The reader will wonder where Thomas went.

So: give your character the good scenes. Plenty of screen time. Make your character affect the world and have an impact, so your reader will feel the changes right along with him/her. Don’t let your story become mired in subplots and actions by minor characters.

Because if Thomas is gone for too long, the kid will just want to watch something else.