Sometimes we don’t remember the name of our favorite book. But quite easy we remember the main character, right? Or, very often, long after we have finished reading a story, we can’t help but think of the characters we’ve encountered within the book. We just keep on digging in our memory, recalling situations the main character has fallen into and asking ourselves if we would have done the same thing in the same situation.
Well, this is the definition of a “compelling character”!
Many will agree that creating a character is actually a long and challenging process. We can refer to the characters in your book as the “ engine” of your story or novel. Creating a memorable and interesting character is the key to a successful book.
We all know that less is usually more in every aspect of life. So, let’s roll our sleeves up and outline the dos and don’ts about crafting a compelling character.
Try to give the reader as many details as you can about your character, but of course, don’t go crazy about it. Describe the features he/she has and share some small details about the character’s appearance - things like facial features that are distinctive. When you describe the character try to think of something specific, a trait that would make an impact on the reader.
However, we’ve already mentioned that it’s not mandatory to be extremely specific as this might bore the reader. As a creator of the story, it is you that need to find the happy medium. At the same time, you might also illustrate some of the descriptors that can tell us more about the character – things like scars or tattoos, clothing, posture. The best approach would be if you just sprinkle the details all over the book. Make that process as it is in the real life when you’ve just met someone but you know you will need some more time to get to know him/her better. Don’t just give all of the information at once, make the reader curious, persuade him/her to keep on reading in order to find out more about your character.
By describing the personality and physical traits of the character we give the reader a better idea of what type of person he/she is. It would be a good idea if you describe the character’s insecurities and weaknesses because this is all part of our inner world. Memorable characters often have a situation from their past that had caused them suffering and they are trying to overcome the psychological consequences, they’ve been left with.
Give your character a soul by describing some personality traits. Reveal to the reader details about your character’s past, also the good and bad time he/she had been through. This will help the reader to shape the personality of the character in their mind and bring them closer, as they are old acquaintances.
Guide the reader into your character’s life – set a goal your character has to follow, and all the obstacles he/she will encounter. Every person knows that life is a chain of decisions and choices we have to make every single day.
Give your character a reason to be in your story. Depict a complex sequence of events that put the character in a hazardous situation. Offer the reader the impression that the character has to make an important decision that can twist the whole plot of the story of his life. This will be a process full of tension, intrigue, and uncertainty. Represent a situation where your character feels extremely vulnerable, suffering his own thoughts because this is a good approach to evoke empathy in the reader. Therefore, guide the reader through the difficulties and hard moments the character will face. Show the reader the way your character is changing, give him room to grow.
A character that has experienced the outcome of his bad decisions and finally confessed he/she had done wrong things is always a victory. Show the reader the long and slow process your character is going through, but as a result - they had the courage and managed to change the fate and show their great ability to resist and survive.
You can give more power to the protagonist by involving a determined opponent that will force the protagonist to reach his/her limits. This conflict is the point where two opposite things collide and cause human drama.
Finally, it’s essential for the reader to be able to define the change, the growth, and the fall of your character. This process will engage him/her from the beginning till the end of the book. Keep in mind that a memorable character would be the one that will resonate with the reader.
It is the transformation of the inner world of the character that is a dominant point. Finally, don’t strive for perfection, don’t be scared if your character is not ideal. The readers tend to sympathize with ordinary characters, with similar fates to theirs, that’s why – give your character a bit of everything!