How To Create Great Characters For Your Novel

By on December 16, 2015
How To Create Great Characters For Your Novel - Writer's

One of the most important ingredients when writing a novel is creating brilliant characters, ones who appeal to your reader, who they can engage and identify with, who excite them, scare them, or make them angry, happy or sad. Unique and enthralling characters are a crucial part of creating a successful story. In fact, perhaps the most important part of all.

As a writer it can be difficult to know where to start, you have a great character in your head, but how do you translate them to paper? You may think it is just as simple as giving them a weird haircut, a strange accent and an interesting backstory. But it’s not. Genuinely remarkable characters need layers and depth, they need to be carefully crafted so that readers cannot help but want to know more and more about them.

There are however some tried and tested techniques that, if employed in your writing, will give your character believability and intrigue. Here are 5 useful steps which will help you create great characters that will live up to your readers expectations.

1 Understand everything about your character (and we mean everything!)

The secret of writing a believable character is believing in him or her yourself. Spend some time writing down everything you know about them. Start with a physical description, you can begin with the basics, hair colour, eye colour etc. But then get specific. Know their birthday, their star sign, whether they believe in star signs, what they like to eat, what position they sleep in, how they move. Know how they would react in every single situation, from running out of milk to being faced with someone trying to kill them. Knowledge of your character not only makes it easier to write them, it also stops you from making any glaring inconsistencies. If you don’t bother getting to know them, you might have them happily munching on roast beef in chapter 10 when they were in fact an avid vegetarian at the start of the book.

2 Make sure events have consequences

Anything that happens in your novel should have an effect on your characters. If it doesn’t, ask yourself whether it is really necessary in the story. A character who doesn’t react to events, who never learns from mistakes, who doesn’t change no matter what happens to them, is going to be a character that is difficult to understand or believe in.

3 Be aware of your character’s journey

Your characters need to progress. Characters journeys can vary completely from book to book, but in every successful novel you will see that the character you are presented with at the beginning of the book is different to the one you know at the end. Readers identify with characters who struggle, who learn, and who overcome adversity. Whatever type of story you are writing, apply this to your character, let the reader come with them on their journey, and they will be much more invested in what happens to them, and having your reader care deeply about your characters is really the whole point.

4 Learn to balance actions, and reactions

The most successful books have tightly written, carefully woven plot lines which keep their readers hooked from start to finish. The action in your book can be used to bring depth to your characters, and balancing action with reaction is a clever skill. You want to drive your story forward, while at the same time give appropriate consideration to the motivation of your characters. Carefully balancing these two elements will allow your readers to understand your character better while simultaneously engaging with the story and wanting to find out what happens next.

5 Learn from the greats

It has always been said that the very best writers are obsessed with reading. It really is the best form of research you can do. There are some books where characters are known throughout the world. Ask yourself what makes these characters so popular/ intriguing/ horrifying? What gives them the mass appeal that makes them so prominent and well-loved, (or indeed hated) in popular culture? Reading every chance you get will help you learn how to carefully craft your characters and give you ideas and inspiration of how to portray them in unique and exciting ways.

If you follow these tips your should be well on your way to creating fantastic, believable, in-depth characters for your book - ones that will keep your readers hooked from start to finish.

Bethany Cadman -contributor

Bethany Cadman -contributor

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