While a great storyline and an intense setting can make for an excellent read, what really creates a great book is awesome characters. After all, how many pages have you kept turning just to see what happens to the MC?
Getting your reader to care about your characters is a task every writer should aim for, and these tips just might help.
7 Tips For Creating Awesome Characters
Perfect The Voice
There are some books where the character voice is immediate. I remember sitting at a writer’s festival listening to a publisher talk about the winner of their latest competition and how they won because the voice stood out from the first line. I’ve since read that book (It Sounded Better In My Head by Nina Kenwood) and it’s true. The character voice of the MC is on point from the first sentence and makes you want to follow her journey. So how do you achieve the same thing? With planning and practice.
Plan how you want your character to be. If you can’t do that from the start of your draft, wait until you’ve finished and then have a good look at what’s on the page. Define how your character acts, talks, and thinks, and make sure it’s coming across for your readers.
Give Them Distinctive Dialogue
Just like each character has their own voice, they should also have dialogue that’s specific to them.
If you do it well enough, readers should know who is talking just by the dialogue alone, no name attached. You need to know your characters really well to get to that level, to know exactly how each one would react to the same news. If something surprising happens in your story, they all can’t say “Oh my god!”. Establish distinctive dialogue that suits the personality of each of your characters and you’ll be on track.
Create Individual Mannerisms
Mannerisms also need to be as individual as you can make them (do you see a theme happening here?).
If every character fidgets when they talk, there’s nothing to separate them in the reader’s mind. You don’t need to include crazy mannerisms either, just basic ones like one character being the only person in the book who rolls their eyes. It’s enough to establish that that mannerism belongs to them and to set them apart from everyone else.
Ramp Up The Relatability
Infuse your characters with common traits and there’s bound to be a reader out there who identifies with them.
Give them popular interests or hobbies, and readers will feel connected. If you’ve got a character who sees every movie under the sun, loves tacos, and owns a cat, I’m going to root for them. Making your characters as relatable as possible, both in personality, past-times, hardships, and wins is going to give your readers someone they identify with and a character who they will want to follow from the first page to the last.
Paint Them In Shades Of Gray
People aren’t perfect, and your characters shouldn’t be either.
Even heroes need shades of gray to make them believable. Yes, your MC can be the good guy, but he also needs to have flaws. If all they do is run around winning, there’s no tension or reason for the reader to want to go on a journey with them or to care what happens. Paint them in shades of gray—with both good and bad flaws.
Back Them Up With A Backstory
It’s a good idea to give all of your characters some backstory.
Major characters should have a well-planned and executed story, minor characters can get away with something as simple as a paragraph mentioned in passing, and characters who pop up once don’t need one.
For your major characters, the backstory can be dripped throughout the book, with anything that mirrors their arc popping up in time to make an event or scene make sense. For example, an MC who suffered a near-drowning as a child is suddenly forced to enter the water to save a friend. With the backstory of the drowning accident in mind, readers will wonder if they’ll hesitate or step up, giving you tension and an interesting character.
Make Them Consistent And Believable
One final tip for awesome characters is to make them consistent and believable!
Everything they do should be in line with the character you establish at the start of the book, and any changes to that character should be something that follows a clear, believable arc.
If you have a character who’s been nothing but a team player in every event of the book and they suddenly don’t show up at the big climax, readers will notice. Unless you’ve foreshadowed a good reason for why this character wouldn’t be there, you’ve ruined their consistency and believability. No writer wants a reader to throw their book across the room out of frustration, so create characters with consistent and believable actions.
When you combine that with backstory, gray shades, relatability, individuality, and a voice that leaps from the page, you’ll have no issues creating awesome characters.
What’s your best character creating tip? Share it in the comments!
— K.M. Allan