You know you have encountered a well-drawn character when you cannot wait to return to the book to see what they are up to next. These characters resonate with you on multiple levels, and you grow fond of them, or even attached to them. Therefore, as a novelist, you should strive to learn how to make interesting characters for your story that have this same effect on your readers.
Compelling characters have several things in common, even if the characters themselves couldn’t be more different. Take Dagny Taggert, the heroine of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, for instance. This complex character is a compilation of multiple dimensions — a brilliant industrialist, beautiful, optimistic, childlike, provocative, isolated, strong willed, and naive — a female character who was decades ahead of her time.
Authors who understood how to create memorable characters such as Frodo from The Lord of the Rings, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, or Sherlock Holmes of the famous detective series, knew instinctively what their characters needed. The characters possessed a perfect medley of strengths and weaknesses, quirks and virtues to endear them to the reader.
If you are embarking on your own work of fiction, understanding how to write interesting characters is absolutely essential.
Read on to learn some simple strategies to help your characters leap right off the page!
How To Make Interesting Characters
Discerning readers are always on the hunt for multidimensional characters that capture their attention, engage their intellect, and move them in some meaningful way. We read books in search of characters that cause us to think, feel, and to take a leap of faith.
As an author, how do we make interesting characters that will have this kind of effect on readers? Consider these eight tips for creating a memorable character.
1. Develop the character’s unique traits.
As you begin the process of fleshing out the character, cover these aspects to help your reader conjure up an accurate mental picture.
- Name. Give your character an interesting name that is appropriate to the personality you are assigning them, but a name that is not too ordinary… or too bizarre.
- Physical appearance. This includes their general appearance (i.e., are they tall, small, blonde, middle aged, fit or pudgy, etc.?). Do they have any physical features that are unique, such as a scar or a limp?
- Psychological traits. Do they have any mental health issues that might influence their behaviors and thoughts, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, or bipolar disorder?
- Personality traits. Are they an extrovert or introvert? Are they compassionate or detached? Are they cerebral or talkative?
2. Give the character some flaws.
Perfection is boring. By adding some interesting character flaws, you are making them more relatable and charming. Giving your character some shortcomings can help us connect to their humanity, and thus, make readers more intrigued about them.
3. Define the character’s goals and motivations.
Give the character a reason for being in the story. This is accomplished by assigning them a primary goal that drives the story arc. Are they rebuilding their life after a major setback or loss? Are they seeking revenge? Are they trying to save the family business? Describe the motivation for the goal. Are they driven by a new purpose in life? Hatred? Fear? The motivation is the fuel that drives the character toward the goal.
4. Describe the character’s history.
Your character’s backstory helps the reader to better understand their motivations and unique personality traits. The writer can intersperse the character’s history strategically throughout the narrative or introduce the background at the beginning of the story. Their history might include details about the character’s family, where they grew up, their past occupations, their religious background, and details about their childhood, such as trauma, abuse, neglect, divorce, or poverty.
5. Allow the character to be vulnerable.
Even the most iconic figures of strength have some weaknesses or fears embedded in their nature. Characters become more relatable when they experience events that expose their vulnerabilities. Because readers can relate to having occasional setbacks, we will root for the character to rise above their adversities.
6. Make your character a bit unpredictable.
A multi-faceted character is more interesting and intriguing than a plain vanilla nice guy. This is a staple tip for how to create memorable characters. Give them some seemingly incongruent traits, such as being a kindhearted person with an explosive temper. This can provide opportunities for surprise and unpredictability in the story.
7. Do your research.
If your character is from a foreign land or different time period, do some research about the customs and colloquialisms common in that culture. This is especially important when writing dialogue. The more the character aligns with the traits of his or her cultural roots, the more believable the character will be. Accuracy is important here.
Improve Your Characterization With Developmental Editing
Character development is not as easy as it might first appear; that’s why learning how to make interesting characters is vital. It requires skilled craftsmanship to write interesting, compelling characters that will enthrall your readers and capture their hearts. Why not get the extra guidance to help you shape your characters from the get go? For expert developmental editing services, reach out to Gatekeeper Press today.