10 Ways To Write Better Characters
Characters are one of the pillars on which your story will be standing. It is important therefore, to spend enough time to make them three-dimensional. While writers are encouraged not to just introduce their characters, it is important to realize that info dumps are also not welcome. You are trying to get your readers to be invested in your characters.
In this blog post, we take you through ten ways in which you can master how to write better characters. So, read on to see if there is something you have missed from our comprehensive list!
Writing diverse characters brings to your readers the chance to feel represented. In our daily lives, we come across people who have different sexual orientations, who hail from different backgrounds, who identify as non-binary, who are trans. When we think about the book world we are building, it is a representation of the real world. For example, Patrick from Perks of being a Wallflower was gay, he considered himself to be the prettiest person in the room, and he wore his truth as a crown.
Make your characters likable
There is a difference between a likable character and an unlikeable character. You can write likable antagonists and protagonists who people cannot like at all. Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series proves to be a likable villain. It was not until the very end of the series that we learn the secret Snape harbored. And in the fifth book, we get a glimpse into his life – and his affection towards Lily Evans i.e. Harry Potter’s mother. On the contrary, a lot of times readers have expressed their frustration at the stupidity exhibited by Harry Potter himself – especially during the events of The Order of the Phoenix, when he decides to go against all his friends and charge into the Ministry of Magic to save his godfather.
Give your character a goal
Unless you give your character a goal, chances are people will not care what happens to them. Gillian Flynn’s novel, Gone Girl, is about a dysfunctional couple – and told from two conflicting points of view. While the husband tries to find his wife, the wife does her best to stay gone from the town. Similarly, John Green’s novel Paper Towns has the protagonist Q, read all the clues left behind by his childhood crush, Margo, so that he can find her again. We want to know what happened to Margo too. We start trying to solve the clues along with Q to figure out the truth about Margo. Q’s goal is to find Margo and bring her back home. In the end, he does find her, but what he does not realize is whether Margo ever wanted to be found in the first place!
Think about your character
Don’t just write your character. Invest your time in creating and learning how to write better characters. Think about their likes and their dislikes, what they believe in and what they cannot stand. Besides thinking about how they look, think about their history. If you plan to make your character an unreliable narrator, then drop hints throughout the story about the same. Readers do not like being tricked by the author, they like it when their suspicions are confirmed. We advise that you find ways of showing these things through your story, not simply telling.
Give your character a rich history
Maybe they fought with their enemy when they were little, or maybe they helped cover a murder. Our stories always start in the middle of something where the characters have either known each other or have just met; but they have existed before the readers meet them. For instance, Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before used to be best friends with Genevieve when they were little. But a misunderstanding has created a rift between them, which shows itself in little ways in the present.
Give them a specific character trait
This does not have to be physical, it can be something that is not tangible. In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, all sisters had defining character traits and were beloved. Even though Jo outshone all of her sisters – it is her love for Beth and her devotion towards her weaker sister that makes her the most likable. Similarly, in The Hunger Games, it is Katniss’s love for Primrose that makes her a beloved character. Even though she works towards overthrowing the government and takes part in the revolution, it is her love for her sister that makes her most humane and relatable.
Give them flaws
No one likes reading about Little Miss Perfect. One of the best ways to ensure your character is human is to ensure they bleed when they are cut. It is also human to make mistakes. In Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie screws up big time with his new set of friends. It takes a while for things to go back to normal. As we empathize with his struggles, we also begin rooting for him to get to the bottom of his hermit-like behavior.
Give them quirks
If I said, I will not think about it today, I will think about this tomorrow – you would guess that I am referring to Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. These quirks give your characters a much higher recall. Or like with Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, if anyone made a joke about radish earrings and reading a magazine upside down, you would know they were referring to this free-spirited individual from the wizarding world.
Put obstacles in their path
Do not let your protagonist walk through a wall of the fire unscathed. Put obstacles in their path. Make them fail. No one likes a protagonist who has everything handed to them. What makes a story interesting is how the protagonist keeps going despite all the challenges life might throw at them. Obstacles are a failsafe to ensure your reader does not abandon you in the middle of the journey.
Give them beliefs
While we would not encourage writers to create morally uptight characters, we would also like to see our heroes believe in something. This is not to say it is wrong to create characters who might be highly moralistic. But it is important to make them relatable. It is as we said before – we need to be assured your character is human; they will bleed when they are cut. However, you need to give them lines they would not cross. For example, Batman from DC Comics has one simple rule – he does not kill; that is a line he will not cross.
Give them moral dilemmas
That being said, we would also like to see them come close to crossing those lines. Put them in impossible situations and then help them find a way out of it. Not only will it make for a very gripping story but it will make your readers begin to ask themselves what they might do if placed in the same shoes as the characters they are reading about. The famous argument – “I had no choice” can be countered and challenged. And as the author, this is your chance to change the narrative.
As a pro-tip, we offer one last piece of advice on how to write better characters: it is believed that there are 16 personalities in the world. Every great character ever written can be classified as such. You can always run your characters against the website, or read up on the personalities to fit your characters into them.
When you sit down to plot your story, spend some time thinking about your character, and how to write better characters. It is not enough to know how they look. When you bring them to life, make sure you know the tiniest details about them including little nuggets of information that might not even make its way to the final book.
Ultimately, it is your story and you get to decide the voices that get to tell it. We hope this article helps you on how to write the characters roaming around in your head but you never could get quite right on paper!