It’s a common fear among writers.
You come up with characters you’ve fallen in love with and you’re writing their story, but are those characters interesting enough for other people to fall in love with?
There are a few things you can do to make sure your characters are interesting, or to put your mind at rest.
Where to start
The biggest key to making your characters interesting is to develop them fully and give them depth.
They need motivation for doing what they’re doing and, arguably, there should be something relatable about them.
This doesn’t mean you have to make your characters wonderful people. There are plenty of novels out there with horrible protagonists and readers who adore them.
What makes your characters interesting will depend on peoples tastes and so many readers like different things.
So, first things first, have a good think about what you find interesting about characters.
Make a list of your favourite characters and why you love them and find them interesting.
The basics of character development
There is a foundation you need for each character before you start getting deeper.
Character ideas can come to you in any order and at any time, so you might start with a name or a background or a motivation.
No matter where you start, by the end of developing the foundation of your character, you should have an idea of:
- Their name.
- Their appearance.
- Their background.
- Their family and friends (if any).
- Their habits.
- The way they talk.
- How the react to every day occurrences.
- What they do with their days (or nights).
- How they relax.
- Their life values (would they ever steal, or hurt someone, or not offer the split the bill?).
- Their motivation for doing whatever it is they’re going to do in this story.
- Their life story.
- BONUS QUESTION: What would it take for them to take a life?
5 tips for adding some interest
As you’re developing your characters, consider these questions to add some more interest, if you’re worried at all about your characters being boring.
- Can you flip anything on its head?
This will help you to move away from clichés and maybe surprise your reader.
Take a look at what’s popular at the moment that’s similar to your character and try and find something different.
For example, if your character is a slayer of monsters, maybe don’t make them a librarian. It works but it’s been done a lot recently. What if they were a hairdresser, instead? Getting all the gossip from their clients. Or a carer, torn between their responsibilities for their dependents and keeping their town safe.
- Give your character some vulnerability and find their motivation.
This can also be a part of your character’s motivation.
This doesn’t have to mean giving your character a sob story or an horrific background, there just needs to be a little gap in their armour or a soft spot that makes the reader feel for them.
That feeling might be pity, but in understanding why your character is doing what they’re doing, they’ll understand and care more about them, which in turns makes your reader interested in them.
- Give your characters similar aspects to you.
Go from your own experiences and show your character is embarrassed by certain things, says the wrong things, trips over their words, is ignored all the time, or whatever seems to afflict you.
You’ll find readers who are like you and can really relate to these characters.
- Give them aspects that you wish you had.
Chances are your readers might feel the same and will love your characters for it.
Give your character a big mouth, or the ability to say what’s on their mind, or a genius level of intelligence, or a strength and power that helps them get through the everyday rough parts of life.
- As you’re writing, pay attention to who is stealing the show.
It might be that you’ve put your spotlight on the wrong character. Is a secondary character or the love interest, or someone else, hogging the scenes as you write? Are they getting all the best lines? Are you feeling increasingly drawn to them?
Have a go at making them the main character, whether they’re the best friend, love interest, villain or just someone in the background.
The thing is, every living thing has a personality and it’s very difficult for a personality to be uninteresting.
Think about the people you know, even the people you don’t get on with, even the ones you find boring to be around. There’ll be something in their lives or the way they act that is interesting.
If your characters are fully developed and there are no gaps, then you can probably be confident that there is something interesting about them.
There’s a common saying with writers that if you’re bored with a story, your reader will be too. The same can be said for characters.
If you’re finding a character interesting, then your readers will too.
And chances are, they’ll find them interesting for completely different reasons. That’s the joy of sharing your stories!