Writing can seem like a daunting task, and the most important part of writing a story is having a strong, interesting character. The arc that a character goes through and the way a character reacts to a situation is what moves the story forward and makes the plot engrossing.
While reading a story, a reader will get attached to a character only if they are relatable. The reader should be able to empathize with the character and feel the emotions they go through, and this is only possible when a character has believable traits. It is the personality of the character that we build that decides how they are going to overcome adverse circumstances and make their decisions. This not only brings us closer to the character and the story we are following but also helps us understand the motives behind a particular action and how the character is going to handle a situation in the future.
This article will try to guide budding writers on how to develop a good and interesting character in the simplest way possible.
What Should You Keep In Mind While Developing A Character?
To develop a strong character in a story, one needs to ask these questions to themselves…
Why Does The Character Exist?
Firstly, we need to justify a character’s existence. What is their role in the story, are they a protagonist, a sidekick, or an antagonist, and most importantly, how their existence is going to bring more depth and meaning to the story.
For example, if your character is a protagonist, you need to decide what will be the end goal of the character, what is the problem that they have to overcome. If your character is a sidekick, you need to decide how they will help the main character in realizing their goal, etc.
Should They Be An Ideal Person?
No. A character should not follow a single quality. They should be multidimensional and layered and should have both positive traits and negative flaws. Your character can have good traits like being very wise and hardworking but can also struggle with vices like selfishness, extreme anger, or pride. It is also interesting for the reader to see how a character struggles with internal conflict and overcomes a problem.
For example, a mother wants to spend more time with her children but is also out most of the time because she has to do two jobs to earn enough money for her kids. It makes a character more life-like and sympathetic.
Does Your Character Change Their Personality With Time?
It is a general human tendency to gradually change themselves over the years or mold themselves according to the situations, but there are certain fundamental traits and beliefs that a person always follows and rarely changes. It is important to decide which traits of a character’s personality are dynamic and which are static as they are crucial in deciding how the plot changes around the character.
For example, your character is very honest, and it is part of their primary characteristics. One day they get involved in a car accident and injure two people, so because they are honest, they will not think twice before going to the police and confessing, but on the other hand, if being honest is just a secondary trait of the character, during the same situation, they might run from the scene and lie about the accident. Thus the same setting invokes very different responses.
What Is The Character’s Background Story?
It is important to give your character a past story that not only helps in empathizing with the character but also understanding how the past incidents have shaped the character’s personality.
For example, a character’s social anxiety issues can only be fully comprehended if the reader knows about the incident that has triggered the issue in the first place, like excessive bullying at school or witnessing a horrific accident in a public place, etc.
What Does Your Character Look Like?
It also becomes important to define the physical attributes of your character that will help the readers in forming a mental image of what they look like. Also, do remember to mention a distinct physical feature that the character carries, perhaps a purple streak in their hair or a tattoo on their back, etc., to set them apart from the other characters. In addition to this, also make sure to add certain mannerisms like the way they talk or how they stand or walk or how they dress, etc.
For example, Eren was a 15-year-old shy teenager who was too short for his age. His blond curly hair fell over his face masking a childhood scar just above his beautiful hazelnut eyes. He always walked with a limp and fumbled when he was nervous, which always attracted a lot of insults, making him even more insecure.
Important Tips To Follow
- It is very important to research your character. You cannot make your character a doctor who does not even know the basics or an American high school teenager who has all the mannerisms and experiences of an Indian teen.
- Your character should be believable and relatable— they should have an adequate amount of flaws and strengths and a problem that is within their reach to overcome.
- When you are introducing a character, refrain from giving away too much information. The reveal should be gradual, and in sync with the direction the story is going.
- The traits of the character are better revealed through experiences or backstories rather than just blatantly describing the person as if stating facts. For example, instead of saying Jason is very strong, we can say, While everyone was struggling with the task, Jason casually lifted the heavy water cans and went inside the superstore.
- Make sure you have a strong antagonist. A hero is only as good as his villain. Also, make sure you equally focus on all the side characters.
- Be very careful with the stereotypes. Yes, they exist for a reason, but making a character an exaggerated version of someone and molding them into certain fixed stereotypes is not a cool move.
Important Character Traits That Make A Character Good
Positive traits include traits like loyalty, self-control, persistence, forgiveness, fearfulness, honesty, responsibility, etc. When a character would go to lengths to help a friend or is wise enough to control their emotions or anger or are too determined to fulfill their goal, they do gain a lot of sympathy from readers, and we root for these characters because we see a part of ourselves in them or at least we would want to possess such traits.
Negative traits include impatience, greed, cruelty, manipulation, selfishness, anger, etc. These traits often create hurdles for the character. It is something that drives the story forward. Traits that are usually attributed to antagonists so that they are perceived as bad or evil. Traits that if a protagonist has them, they try to fight them or have to face the consequences later.
Writing a story is a very interesting process, and characters and plots in a story are like two peas in a pod. Thus, character development becomes an essential part of storytelling. All these steps mentioned should be kept in mind while you are describing a character but do not get overwhelmed and focus too much on the technicalities. Writing is a fluid process, so take as much liberty as you can and create your own dreamland. Happy writing!
Written by: Aashna