We all love it when we’re reading and we fall in love with a character.
Not just in the book boyfriend way – although that’s cool too – but in a isn’t-she-so-great-I-wish-I-could-be-just-like-her-or-maybe-just-her-best-friend way.
As an author, how do you make that happen for your readers?
That’s what we’re talking about this week in the SPA. What makes a great character? How do we make them so memorable that our readers keep coming back for more? What do you need to know about them before you start? And how do you bring them to life on the page?
Join us as we dissect everything you might ever need to know about writing great characters!
I sometimes do a character interview when I get stuck. Who are your family? What’s your backstory etc.
– It’s important to like your characters. If they’re mean, then show what made them that way, and also show a lighter side. (Do they like bunnies or something like that)
– Give them redeeming qualities.
– Your characters have to grow during the book. It’s an emotional journey and you need to share that with the reader.
– Often opposites attract when writing a hero and heroine.
– They can appear perfect, but can’t really be that way or they’d have no room for change.
Consider using personality types like Myers Briggs to give you a basis from which to work out your character and their motivations.
Use Goal, Motivation, Conflict structure: What is their goal, why do they want it, and what is standing in their way?
Examples of possible character motivations:
Survival, fear, peer pressure, curiosity, guilt, desire, instability, love, loyalty, honor, obedience, vengeance, inequality, hatred, dishonor, pride, greed, revenge, lust, jealousy, death, humiliation, pain, rejection, loss, regret, shame.
Michael Hauge talks about Identity and Essence, and I find this helpful to think about. What is the identity the character is hiding in, and what is the essence that is what they truly want to be (or just could be if they tried or believed differently).
Or just general questions:
What is your character’s goal – what do they want?
What is the one thing that is standing in their way? (Or one person standing in their way.)
What is their biggest flaw? (They should get over it, or work on it by the end of the book)
What is the one thing they would most hate to have happen to them? (Probably relating to their flaw. You need to make this happen to them.)
Answer questions like:
Physical appearance – height, weight, eyes etc, also clothes, and hair. Age.
What is their body language like?
What is their education? Do they have any strong beliefs?
How do they get around?
Where do they work?
What are their mannerisms? Do they have tics? Do they bite their nails, do they talk too much when they’re nervous?
What are their quirks? (Things that the other characters can notice about them, and maybe hate at first but miss later on… like the guy who hates how much this woman talks, and then misses her voice later on when she’s mad at him)
But also questions like:
Who has influenced them as they’ve grown up?
What would they do in certain situations? Are they shy, or bold? Confident or meek?
What makes them laugh?
How do they act when they’re angry?
What’s the best way to cheer them up?
Greatest strength, greatest weakness, greatest fear?
What are their important relationships?
What do they carry around in their pockets or handbag that they can’t do without?
What secrets do they keep from everyone around them?
What’s their strongest memory from their childhood? (probably relating to their flaw)
What traits do they have that can sometimes lead them into trouble? (Being overprotective, or not being able to keep quiet when you see injustice being done…)
Who or what do they love the most? What do they have to lose?
What do they think they want? (could be different to what they need)
What are they most afraid of?
Consider how you introduce your characters. Setting can play a huge part in the introduction. Remember to show not tell if you possibly can.
Connection to MC or storyline:
What’s your biggest goal in life?
What are you most scared of?
Okay, so that’s what you tell people. What are you really really afraid of?
What is your greatest regret?
What do you hate most about yourself?
What do you love about yourself?
Who do you hate most? Or What kind of person do you hate most? Why?
Where did you grow up?
What was your homelike life as a child?
What’s your life look like now?