Crafting Compelling Characters: part 2
All characters start with a basic idea, but some evolve into characters that can deeply move or at least entertain the reader. In real life, people add tension and conflict to their lives and it makes sense that in your book this will occur too. The great thing is that you have a whole world of examples to draw upon.
You can use traits from those around you and add them to your characters. This immediately brings those characters out from the shadows, helping them to emerge as memorable ones. Drawing on your own creativeness, your memories and your ability to absorb life, should help you to create memorable characters that work.
Ambitions/goals - Something that drives the character forward.
A secret - Secrets add suspicion, tension, excitement and fear.
Vulnerability - People are naturally drawn to people who are fragile, hurt or incapable. It’s an instinctive response which can be used to great effect within your story.
Contradicting characters - Complex characters can both attract and repel those around them. It's their unpredictability that makes them interesting. Complexities become apparent during times of conflict and this can make for a compelling read.
Consider the following:
Think about people you feel particularly close to. Why are you close?
Think about the family members you don’t like. Why don’t you like them?
Think about those you have lost touch with. Why do you miss them and what would you say to them if you saw them again?
Who do admire and why?
Were you bullied at school? How did this make you feel and what would you say to that person now?
Who caused your emotional pain? What happened and how did it affect you?
Has someone surprised you? What did this person do to make you feel this way?
Have you been rejected or hurt? What happened and how did it shape your life?
Using memories and experiences adds richness to your writing and helps you to write with greater confidence. But, also consider:
What if you killed off your supporting character?
What if a character had to move away and leave their friends?
What if your main character becomes ill?
What happens if you character has to cope with failure or their own fears?
Sometimes even the smallest of details can make the biggest impact. You don’t always have to look for the “huge” event or something catastrophic, to be able to use it in your work. Just knowing how to weave a complex set of emotions or events within the tapestry of your story will add integrity and richness to your book.
Finally, let’s look at character names.
How important is this? Well, to be truthful...
If you pick a wrong name, the reader may misunderstand or not like the character on a subconscious level. Choosing complex names is a no-no. If you think about how many times you will write this name and how hard it would be for the reader to pronounce, it makes sense to keep it simple and choose something easier to say and read.
Think of the following steps:
Era – If your novel is a historical work of fiction, then choosing the right name is crucial.
Chosen name – The name you choose should roll off the tongue, making it both easy to read and say (This is especially important if you wish to change your book to an audio one).
Initials – Initials are great to use when your characters have similar-sounding names. This helps the reader avoid confusion.