Everything You Want To Know About Creating Interesting Characters

Everything you want to know about creating great characters

I’m at the beginning of a new project, well two actually, so I thought it was time to blow the dust off my ‘how to write’ books and see what they have to say about developing a strong character. Because we all know a strong character makes for a strong story.

Here’s the list of what I gleaned:

1. Make your character someone you can be proud of

Strength of character seems a slightly old fashioned term, but we all admire people who show us the good things humanity is capable of: loyalty, courage, intelligence, compassion, to name but a few. We like to read about people who have a positive character trait, and have it in spades.

Think of Harry Potter, or Lyra from Northern Lights. Both have amazing loyalty to their friends. They also show great determination and courage in the face of danger.

2. … but don’t make them sickly sweet

After giving your character a strong positive attribute, season them with a little of something negative.  We are complex souls with inner angsts and unresolved issues. A character struggling with an inner conflict makes for a more interesting story. Harry Potter is haunted by the memory (or lack of it) of his dead parents and Lyra has to deal with the realisation that her parents aren’t on the side of good.

3. … or all doom and gloom

I say season; don’t drop the whole salt pot in. Nobody likes to listen to a moaner, and it isn’t any fun reading about them either. Self-destructive characters who seem incapable of resolving their issues do not make good stories.

4. Make them a hero, not a wimp

Stories have conflict, and to have conflict you need a character who is trying to get out of where they’re at. That way you can stop them achieving their goal in all sorts of wicked and nasty ways. All of which they overcome in one way or another. And thus a hero is born. Where would Jason and the Argonauts be if Jason had stayed on the beach collecting drift wood instead of building a ship?

5. Remember this is not real life

In real life you wake up at 3am with that edgy response you wish you’d said during the argument last night. In fiction your character can do and say all the things you wish you’ could. Think James Bond. Make your character all you want them to be, because you can.

6. So make them extraordinary

Interesting people make interesting stories. So give your character interests which are out of the ordinary. Make them ‘wacky’, fill them with foible. exaggerate their habits and you’ll have a character fit for the adventures you’re about to put them through.

Bibliography

How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N Frey

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

If you’ve found this post helpful I’d love to hear from you, or you might like to use the Share buttons below to tell others about it.

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12 thoughts on “Everything You Want To Know About Creating Interesting Characters

  1. Thank you for this thought provoking article, Lorrie.
    As I read random thoughts popped into my head. What to see them? Here they are…

    I think more than likability—reliability is key. I think one of our tasks as a writer is to help readers see why our characters act the way they do.

    Even the most villainous see their motives as positive. Hitler thought he was protecting and promoting the Aryan race—which for him was a positive motivation.

    Even the most heroic see themselves as just ordinary people. “I’m just a guy who had to act,” they say when interviewed.

    I told you they were random. What I’ll do with them I have no idea.

  2. A story is what happens to characters you care about. Why should we care about your characters?

    You’ve given us some reasons above. Expanding on The James Bond principle you gave, He always gets the girl, BUT the mission comes first. And sometimes, the girl is a villain.

    Other definitions of story are out there, and may necessarily be different for something that is more plot driven. This is a good template for a character driven piece. Thanks!

  3. […] Everything You Want To Know About Creating Interesting Characters (lorrieporter.wordpress.com) […]

  4. The neutrality of some characters can help bring out the shades of darkness in others. for instance Harry Potter, although he has his own back story seems quite neutral. This enables the swirl of magic to happen around him. If he was too ‘ strong’, I wonder if we would have been so enraptured by the world he inhabits?

  5. Emmelie Swan says:

    Thank you for this great advice, Lorrie. I will keep this in mind next time I want to create a character.

  6. Webster says:

    When someone writes an piece of writing he/she maintains the idea of a user in his/her mind that how a user can understand it.
    Therefore that’s why this post is perfect. Thanks!

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