Great fiction requires great characters. But how do authors create characters for their stories? And how can you make your characters more compelling? Check out our top tips on creating fictional characters to find out.
1. Avoid Stereotypes, Embrace Imperfections
Simply put, stereotypes lead to boring, overused character tropes (e.g., the grumpy old neighbor or the femme fatale). These are sometimes known as stock characters. It is fine to draw on stock characters sometimes, especially for minor players in your story. But good fictional characters build upon or avoid these stereotypes, bringing something unique to the story.
Think, too, about giving your main characters imperfections. They might be the heroes of your story, but nobody is perfect in real life. Adding a flaw or two will make them more believable and sympathetic.
2. Everybody Has a History
Every human being has a past, and so should fictional characters (even if they’re not human). Think about the backstory for each character you write and how this affects who they are in the present. You can even write an origin story for each character. You don’t have to use this past in your main story (it is often better not to give too much away), but it is a great writing exercise!
3. Think About Motivation
Detailed, believable characters help create a truly compelling story. And since the best action is character driven, you should try to base the plot of your story around the motivations of your characters.
Ask yourself, then: What are my characters trying to achieve? What do they stand to gain or lose? How do they change as the story progresses?
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As with character backstories, you don’t need to discuss these motivations explicitly in your writing. But if you can give your characters relatable reasons for acting, the reader will keep turning the page to find out more!
4. Show, Don’t Tell
This is a good tip in general for writing, as you should always try to show the reader who your characters are rather than telling them directly. For example, rather than having a narrator tell us your lead character is hot-headed, you could write a scene early on in which he loses his temper.
5. Don’t Forget the Rest!
It can be easy to obsess over a few main characters, but don’t forget about everyone else who appears in your writing. Even if they aren’t the focus of your story, they should feel like they have lives and personalities of their own. Try using a few of the tips above to flesh them out!
And, finally, if you need any assistance while editing your writing, or feedback on your characters, we’re more than happy to help.