There are several different elements to writing a good novel. One of the most important ones is to make sure that you have strong characters that the reader can identify with on some or other level – even if they’re the story’s villain, they still need to be written as close to real-life as possible in order to convince the reader that they should care about the characters in your story.
Here’s some of the best advice you’ll ever read for how to create strong and believable characters for your fiction.
Don’t Get Hung Up on the Wrong Details
Far too many books spend paragraphs (and sometimes even pages) on describing exactly what their characters look like down to the last hair on their eyebrows. This is rarely necessary, and writers should always find more creative ways to say the same things – don’t just say her hair was blonde, for example, think about a few different ways first.
Writers shouldn’t get hung up on the wrong details in their story. Focus on the plot, not the color of their hair.
Stuck? Use Name Generators
Other than your character’s appearance, writers can also get stuck on what to name their characters way too often. This can limit your story in more ways than you think. If your story is stuck on a small detail like this and you just can’t get yourself past it, use name generators and get your focus back to the more important elements in your story.
Remember that names can easily be changed later on, while it’s harder to fix larger plot messes that you create because you’re too worried about the names.
Give Characters a Look
Just because you shouldn’t get stuck on the appearance of your characters doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If you have a vague idea of what your character should look like, include this photo in your outline file – and you can even use online software (or even games like the Sims) to create a mock-up of what you would like your character to look like.
Characters Have Background Readers Won’t See
Create a biography and some background information for every character in your story. This can include things like where they grew up, what their job was, the brief story of how they got expelled from school when they were twelve.
Include background elements that influence who your character is in your story and how they got there.
These background details are usually ones that you don’t include in your story. But they are still important, because they can help you to explore the psychology of your characters in a lot more detail.
Inevitably, it makes writing your story a lot easier.
Hero, Antihero or Outright Villain?
It’s important for any writer to know where each character fits into their story. Decide what role the character will play before you write random characters into your story that just don’t fit anywhere. Are they a hero, antihero or a villain? Make this choice before you make characters do anything on the page.
Characters Need Conflict and Flaws
What makes fictional characters interesting? Characters need internal conflict and flaws. The stereotype of the angry, down-on-his-luck cop in many movies and TV shows can show you one drastic example of internal conflict and inherent character flaws in fiction – but you don’t always have to go in this direction to make it effective.
What bothers your hero or villain? What drives them to take the actions that they do in your story – or react in a certain way to the things that you as writer do to them on the page?
Flaws, conflicts and character progression is what makes your characters live.