Strong characters are a cornerstone of any successful story, but creating them is easier said than done. Here are a few things every character needs in order to come to life on the page.
- Relatability: Whether hero or villain, human or otherwise, it is important to make your character relatable to the reader. The easiest way to do this is to clearly define your character’s motivation – in other words, why do they do what they do? Whether or not the reader agrees with it, they will be better able to empathize with the character if they can at least understand their mentality.
- Interestingness: This may seem obvious, but that does not make it less important. Every character should have something interesting about them, no matter how small their role in the story. For a major character, however, this goes deeper. Characters who are purely good or purely evil are far less interesting than those who fall somewhere in the middle. Similarly, you need to find a balance of strength and weakness. If a hero has no weakness, then there is no risk when they save the day. Conversely, if they are too weak, then there is no story to tell.
- Backstory: Everyone is the product of their experiences. Even if it doesn’t appear in the story, you, as the author, should know the backstory of each of your characters to inform how they behave. This doesn’t mean you need to write a biography on every character, but you should have ideas about what happened in their past that shaped them into the person they are on the page.
- Consistency: Characters are supposed to change over the course of a story – that’s the whole point – but certain aspects of your characters should persist throughout. If a character changes too much too often, it can be hard for the reader to form any kind of attachment to them. A consistent character who undergoes gradual change will resonate better because their journey will seem more true to life, making it easier for the reader to get invested.
In the end, the nature of your characters largely depends on the story you want to tell, but these general tips will at least help you get started.