Can you imagine…
- ‘Angels And Demons’ without John Langdon
- ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ without Hazel Grace Lancaster
- Or ‘Frozen’ without Elsa?
Personally, I can’t.
People care about people. Even the most thrilling and mind-blogging plots aren’t enough to hold your reader’s interest if it’s not backed up by believable and well-developed characters. And for writers, this is where problems start.
It’s not always easy to develop characters that readers find believable and reletable. While we can take inspiration from people we’re close to, many of us don’t have tight-knit relationships with dashing heroes, lovely maidens, or enigmatic professors.
Having said that, it’s still possible to humanize your characters; get to know them; and make them relatable. Using the four elements below, it’s possible to create a John Langdon, Hazel Grace Lancaster, or an Elsa – characters that your readers will love and follow feverishly!
Style Of Communication
The way we speak says a lot about our personality. A laid-back pot-head almost always chuckle no matter what he’s talking about. A college degree holder, on the other hand, carefully chooses his words and paces himself when he speaks – making sure he gets his point across without being antagonistic.
In light of that, it’s important that writers find a distinctive and unique style of communication for their characters. Does your character favor certain expressions or words? How does his / her voice sound like?
Background And History
True, a character’s full background may not make it into the book. However, thinking about your character’s history will give him more substance, which makes it easier for you to develop a story around him.
Take Arya – the youngest of the Stark’s – as an example. A spirited girl who loves fighting and exploring the unknown (Game Of Thrones), she transformed to a trained assassin in the series’ 5th installment (A Dance With Dragons). In between however, readers learn what made her that way. The execution of his father; being chased down by Lannister guardsmen; making it to Braavos – all of these and more contributed to her identity.
What about your character? Where does he come from? How did he spend his childhood? What events and decisions shaped his personality and identity? Did he come from a happy or dysfunctional family?
Physical Appearance And Personality Flaws
While physical appearance may not be the most important element to bring your character to life, it’s still important to have a clear picture of how he / she looks like. So ask yourself: What does he look like? What’s the color of his skin and hair?
Keep in mind, too, that everyone has a trait that annoys people who’re close to them. While you do want your readers to LOVE your character, he’ll feel more real if he has some flawed personality traits. Is he too aggressive? Perhaps he’s too complacent and lazy (like yours truly)? Maybe he’s blinded by his ambition?
For Superman, it’s kryptonite. For Peter Pan, it’s a mind full of pessimistic thoughts. These limitations are more than just personality flaws. Even the most amazing and most powerful characters have a physical or mental weakness that they must overcome. Adding such limitations or weaknesses to your character adds more humanity to him – allowing readers to relate and sympathize with your guy.
In my main character development article, I discuss more on the above topics and other areas such as goals, motivations, and writing multi-dimensional characters. If you found this one helpful, head over there to take a look.