In the previous two posts of our series about characters, we talked about famous women characters in literature, characters who seem so real, they will undoubtedly become part of our literary imaginary forever. Now is time for the one-million-dollar question literary agents, editors, and writers ask themselves the whole time, how to write unforgettable characters? This is probably the most challenging question to answer – and we don’t claim to have all the answers (nobody knows, that’s the thing). But we know some authors have found out how to do this brilliantly, like J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter and Suzanne Collins with her Katniss Everdeen. What we know about this is a matter of observation.
Read the latest posts in the series:
First of all, you need to know even the blood-type of your character, there’s no way out of it. Most of what you know about your character won’t even be in your novel (that’s just pure fact). But you still need to do know them as well as you know yourself. You may want to decide some basic things before you start working on your character’s traits. This is Age, function (every character should have a role in the story), and race. Don’t choose names right away. Decide on a name after you really know this character.
After these three major things, I start with a One-word/phrase description. This is based on this character’s function and which role they have to play in the story. For instance, I have a character who just can’t forgive others. He just can’t. That’s his one-word/phrase description. And of course, he will suffer a significant betrayal in the story – that’s related to the character’s function. This is also related to your character’s major flaw and/or emotional wound.
Other important issues are, homeland, occupation, language (and this is also part of your world-building – whether it is a fantasy or realistic novel)— goals, motivation, background history, fears, and – of course – physical attributes.
Creating a great character is about creating an emotional bond with your readers. Your character is someone who your readers can relate to. Do you want readers to laugh with this character, or cry about their problems, or simply despise them for their egocentrism? If you want your readers to start hating your character but end up loving them, you should give them a “saving grace,” something that readers can love them for. Maybe this character is selfish but will learn to value and love others.
The most fantastic thing about creating characters is that a lot of plot might be revealed to you by thinking about how you will include this character in your story, and which challenges they will have to face. So have fun!
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