We want them to be loved. We want them to be hated. Or adored. Or admired. We want them to be embraced or reviled. This is because our characters are the most vital part of a compelling story. Writers know that a novel’s success is based on their skilled creation of characters that connect with readers –for good and for bad.
But, part of the magic involves not just creating characters that readers will love, but in developing real, true souls that capture the heart of the writer as well. So, how does a writer create such characters?
Consider the following tips:
Assign your characters human characteristics. Extend beyond all the loving attributes of fun and silly, heroic and honorable. Your characters must be flawed. They must endure failings that they need to overcome in the story. They should struggle with human dilemmas of low self-esteem, pride and arrogance. They may be weak. Or confused. Or just plain ignorant. Whatever their traits, make them a subtle blend of right and wrong, black and white for an authentic portrait of humanity.
Visit your characters often. Write every day. Check in on them and gauge their feelings and emotions at various plot points. Think about them throughout the day—even when you are not sitting in front of your computer screen. As you experience your daily life, give thought to how your characters would react to the same circumstances. How would they handle a heavily-trafficked commute? A surly child? A devastating diagnosis?
Know your characters’ motivations. Really know them. As a writer, you may not need to burden your readers with every single last detail about their history, but you should know it. You should know when and where they were born and where they grew up. You should know what challenges they faced as a child and how those challenges shape the characters’ current story. Doing so will provide a more cohesive, nuanced portrayal of your characters within the novel.
Finally, give your characters a rockin’ story! Some of the best characters are made memorable by the challenges they must face. What are some of your favorite characters from novels you have read over the years? Why are they still with you all these years later?