So you have an idea for a story. You probably have the main character and the general plan of how the story will develop.
But as you write, you start to doubt your character. Is this supposed to be the way he speaks? What about his next action? Should she reply yes or no?
A character is very important for any type of story and it is what makes your readers anxious or excited to flip the page. Which is the reason why it is hard to develop one. Usually, I would fill out a page worth of basic information like weight and hair color or draw each of my characters until I was satisfied.
But there are also fun ways to develop characters that I’d like to share with you. Here are 7 easy steps on how to develop a compelling character:
1. Remember that your character is NOT you!
As a beginner, I was always reluctant to give my characters unique appearances or strong opinions. Then I realized that I was holding myself because I wanted my characters to be the perfect depiction of what I want to be.
So first things first, remember that they can be based on a real person or yourself but everyone is unique including your characters.
2. Give them memorable physical traits
Whether it is white hair, a lightning scar, or a snake-like appearance, unique physical traits will make your characters more memorable for the readers. Don’t be scared to give your characters a weird list of physical traits from facial construction to posture.
Here are some examples of traits that you should consider:
- Face (Especially eyes)
- Body proportion (Lean, bulky, scrawny, etc.)
Here is a website that helps me pick physical traits for my characters.
3. Make a distinctive voice
Set a list of how they sound like when they talk. Do they sound like a coughing cat or sweet as a melting honey? Giving a description of your character’s voices will emphasize their appearances.
You can also be creative with how they talk. Depending on the setting of your story, you can decide if they speak with specific slangs or accents.
But be careful with accents, you want to make sure that your readers can hear them correctly. For example: “ahm tellin’ ya” would be better than “I’m tellin’ ya”
I recommend visiting this website for a deeper explanation.
4. Build a strong personality
Give them strong opinion even if it’s wrong, list a few strengths and flaws, you want to make them as human as possible and believable for your readers.
Take Draco Malfoy for example. Sure he was beyond annoying and his actions aggravate the readers as the story goes, but in the end he is still human. His family led him to believe that joining the Death Eaters would be a way to gain prestige even when he thinks it was wrong.
These flaws made a lot of readers to sympathize and remember him until the end. An ambitious person can lose their loved ones on the way to achieve their goals, a nice person can sympathize too quick which leads to their downfall.
Remember, the more relatable they are, the more willing your readers are to turn the page.
5. Give them a goal and development
This will connect with how you want your story to develop. Depending on the conflict, your characters will achieve different things throughout the story. Here are some questions you want to consider:
- What is the conflict of your story?
- How will your character achieve or overcome it?
- What can prevent them from achieving their goal?
- and the most important is: why do they even bother to achieve it?
When answering these questions, you might also want to contemplate on how achieving their goal will change their life and or personality. A good character development with a deep motivation will make your characters more compelling
6. Grow relationships with other characters
Whether they are reluctant to talk about their family or possess a strong relationship with many characters, their relationship can help define their personality.
Make notes on how your characters interact with each other, the way they talk, how they meet, etc.
7. Actions speak louder than words
This is the most important advice I can give to beginners like myself.
After making a list of all of the mentioned aspects above, sometimes we itch to let our readers know that our character is this or that kind of person. However, our characters are mostly defined by what they choose to do throughout the development of the story.
So don’t worry about giving the most detailed physical description in the first introduction. By describing how the characters interact with conflict or setting, our readers will understand our character and see the development throughout the story.
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Featured image by Sang, Y. published on January 4, 2016. Retrieved from https://www.behance.net/gallery/32547589/_