Some may argue that the premise or plot are more important than characters, but characters are actually the most important part of the story. Because without interesting characters the plot means nothing!! But if the story were to have a character but no plot, it would at least be something!
And with an interesting enough protagonist, your readers won’t mind if they’re cooking dinner or fighting monsters because they CARE about the characters.
Why characters are important:
Readers care about the character because the character is interesting and relatable. Even if it’s an extrovert reading about an introvert they still relate to the character having motivations, desires, fears and TOUGH CHOICES!
They may not relate to the supernatural abilities of a character, but they can relate to having to make difficult decisions because everyone has at some point!
Characters are also important as a writer because even if you love the plot if the characters aren’t interesting enough, you won’t want to continue writing the story, but how do you make characters interesting? That’s what I’m about to answer. Don’t worry, we’ll get to the secret later 😉
Your characters went through multiple experiences in the past that shaped who they are today. Write a backstory for your characters that explains how they became the way they are in the story. Their backstory should at least include their family, friends, statuses and traumas.
Pro Tip 💡 – When writing backstory, only write important information. If their grocery list from 10 years ago isn’t relevant in the story, don’t write it. Same with any other unnecessary information.
Character Talents: ✨
I think talents are often overlooked when creating your characters, but they’re really important for your character! Everyone has talents and creating characters with unique talents is a great way to make your characters memorable. If you’re having trouble picking talents, think of something that could be useful for the plot of the story.
👉 Note: Don’t give your character a talent that isn’t relevant to the story, unless it comes up in a sequel, because if that talent isn’t being used then it’s not easy for a reader to remember.
Your character’s personality is VERY important in making them a good, unforgettable character. Their personality should fit well with the plot, but not perfectly! NOTHING about your characters should be perfect because nobody wants to read about some perfect superhuman. If they’re good at something great, but NOT PERFECT.
Repeat after me: NEVER PERFECT.
Even in the resolution of your story, no character should be perfect.
Strengths and Weaknesses: 💪
Your characters need strengths and weaknesses, just like any other person. More flaws are always better for your story as that means more character development (if you’re writing a dynamic character), but make sure that your protagonist at least has the same amount of flaws as they do strengths.
- Here are some flaws for your characters by Reedsy
- Here are more positive and negative traits by WritersWrite
Internal Conflict: 🤕
Just because your character has some strengths and weaknesses, that doesn’t make them interesting. What makes an interesting character is internal conflict. Internal conflict is desire (something the character wants) vs fear (something stopping them from their desire).
Characters with internal conflict are memorable because they feed on the aspect of being relatable. Everyone has faced internal conflict before because we don’t have everything we want so something is stopping us from getting our desires (whether it’s an interior or exterior force).
When readers read internal conflict it’s memorable because the characters end up facing their fears to get their desire which is something everyone wishes they could do.
Something really simple you can do is find your character’s personality types because everyone has one and they are realistic. They can also help you find strengths, weaknesses, talents, likes, dislikes and more when you’re struggling.
I usually use zodiac signs and the MBTI personality types but there are also blood types, enneagram types and other personality types that are useful to have as a writer, even if they aren’t included in the story.
Consistent Characters: 🙃 🙃 🙃
After you’ve created your characters make sure that you’re consistent in writing their personality. It’s very offsetting when a calm character is suddenly hot-headed for no reason. If there is a reason then write it or make sure to let readers know that this character being hot-headed in the moment isn’t how they normally act. Having your characters be consistent is an important part of making them unforgettable.
👉 Note: Though your characters should be consistent, if their dynamic characters, they change throughout the story. And that change is okay. Actually, it’s great because it’s another part of your character that the reader can remember. Keep a balance between your character being consistent and changing (although that can be hard). For example, maybe your character learns to love throughout the story. That doesn’t stop them from still being a perfectionist or loving music.
The Secret: S. I. R. 🤫
The secret is revealed!! Whenever you’re writing a character you want readers to remember; think of SIR.
While developing and writing your characters think: does it matter to the story, make the character interesting or make them relatable? If you answer yes to at least one of these questions then you’re on the right track. Answer yes to more than one? That’s even better! If you can’t answer yes to one of these questions, you should rethink the factor of the character that you’re writing.
You may be thinking, does this work? Here’s an example:
This is just an example with eye colours, but this works for other parts of your character too, like their personality.
Some aspects of your character, you may not even have to use SIR. For example, the backstory of your character will of course be relevant to the story, so you don’t have to use SIR. Otherwise, using SIR is a great method of making your characters unforgettable.
Bonus Tips!! 🎉
For reading all the way through 😉
Make your characters a routine.
Even if every day is different for your character, you could still write a basic routine for your character (with times). This is great as a writer to understand your character and their day-to-day life (before the story).
It’s also good for readers because you can craft a routine that can be somewhat relatable. If it’s not a relatable routine, then it should be interesting at least!
Fill out character questionnaires.
More people need to do this!! If you’re struggling to understand your character, fill out questionnaires and think of what they would do in a certain situation.
For example, your character’s co-worker stole their lunch. What would your character do? Fight them, steal it back, prank them, murder them (that’s extreme) buy another lunch, not eat, or something else?
Everyone’s reactions are different to different situations and understanding your characters is important if you want to write better characters.
Give your characters a unique feature.
Maybe your character has no pupils or their hair is an unusual colour since birth. Having characters with interesting physical features is a great way to make characters unique. For example, you may remember Harry Potter by the scar on his forehead. Not only is it interesting, but it also has a story behind it.
Pro Tip 💡 – Don’t make your characters too similar to other popular figures (fictional or not). You can take inspiration from other figures, but if your character starts to resemble a lot like another popular character your reader may start to remember that person instead of your character!
Use real-life inspiration.
Be inspired by the people in your life when you make your characters. Whether it’s just a physical attribute or a few character traits, if you know your character in real life, you can better understand them.
Have any more tips to make unforgettable characters? Share them in the comments below! Then share this with your friends (and your enemies) so they can write better characters too!