There are many elements to consider as you write your novel but including memorable characters is perhaps the most important of all. We all remember characters that resonated with our hearts, long after closing the last page of a book. Classic characters favored and remembered by many include Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Rhett Butler and Madame Bovary to name but a few. Some of these characters represent benevolent goals (justice) or personal (love) while others surprise us as we find ourselves liking a character we know we shouldn’t.
How do you draft characters layered with complexities and who leap off the page with three dimensional force, leaving your readers grasping for more? Remember your favorite characters – the ones you love the most? Why are they so compelling? What traits do they possess?
I’ve compiled a character worksheet you may find helpful—listing elements you may consider as you begin bringing your character to life on the page.
1. Who is your main character (identifying information)?
2. What are your character’s main goals and motivation?
3. What does your character need to do in order to achieve his/her goals?
4. What problems will your character face and how will they overcome these problems?
5. Will your readers like your character?
Additional things to consider:
· age and physical description
· family background
· relationship status
· socioeconomic status
· interests and hobbies
· fashion style
· favorite foods
· strongest trait
· sense of humor
Beyond these considerations, any character you create is all the more relatable if they possess flaws (or in the case of antagonists, something readers can empathise with). Any surprises or secrets that are revealed about the character (to the reader) will also work to strengthen your character’s personality. Readers will lose interest if your character is squeaky clean and never wrong. You don’t want him/her coming across as a robot, lacking in emotion. Rather, he/she should have moments of fear, rage, uncertainty, joy and sadness and should seek redemption in the event of mistakes. Characters are not meant to be perfect or untainted.
Most writers understand the necessity of avoiding the web of too much backstory but you’ll want to provide readers with information about your character’s motivation (we all want and need something). Include internal conflict (confusion, doubt, obsession, etc.) and external conflict with other characters and the environment.
My favorite characters are ones who begin as underdogs but rise up when faced with challenges. Scout, Piggy, Anne and Jane are illustrious representations of humans aiming to overcome hostility, poverty and discrimination.
What are your favorite characters and what tips can you offer writers with regards to creating memorable characters?