Creating a Memorable Character that Readers will become attached to

by Rowan

Question: What are some good things to keep in mind when trying to create characters that are both unique and memorable? Are there any steps an author should go through to create characters that readers will get attached to?

Answer: I'm not sure steps is the right word. You could say there are many facets to a character. Developing each facet specifically will certainly give you a very detailed understanding of your character. But you can start anywhere when developing a character - with a physical trait, an intention, an experience of a similar person in real life, a photograph from a magazine, a dramatic function that needs filling etc.

A few tips...

Try brainstorming a list of questions about your character, based on your initial idea or what you already know about him. The questions should address every aspect of the character you can think of. For instance...

Personality: what he wants, his emotional needs and motivations, what he thinks and believes, how he reacts to problems or tries to handle them, interests/disinterests, likes/dislikes, intellectual capacity, etc.

Social: his family and other social connections, career, affiliations, friends, rivalries, etc.

Background: culture, community, religion, education, class, etc.

Physical: age, body type, appearance, gender, style of dress, etc.

Verbal: style of speech, favourite expressions, etc.

Skills & Limitations: what is he good/bad at.

Then brainstorm lists of answers to your questions until you find a set of traits that are particularly appealing to you. You'll know you're on the right track when you fall in love with the character (even if he's the villain).

It is helpful, especially for a protagonist or main character, to give him/her a special ability that makes him uniquely suited to tackling the story goal, as well as a critical flaw that makes his task more difficult. In addition, a main character needs inner conflict. He must be pressured over the course of the story to take a different approach to achieving the goal than he's comfortable with.

Focus on creating contrasting traits that make each character distinct from other characters. Characters should also conflicting elements within their own personality. If a character seems generic at all, get more specific about his traits, or exaggerate some traits you've established.

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