One of the hardest things you will go through as a new writer is creating compelling characters for your novel. Character creation takes a lot of thought as these are the people driving your novel. This is what your readers are going to relate to. When I first began my novel, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was lost as I tried to put words on the paper and to find the right characters for my book. It was a struggle at first, but as I started writing, things began to fall into place. Here’s how you can begin to create compelling characters for your book.
Before you write your book, brainstorm some characters. You may have some ideas in your head so jot those down. Don’t worry if you think the characters will work or not as you’re looking for ideas for the book. Do this for a few days to flesh out the ideas in your head. If you come up with names for your characters, write those down. You want to have a pool of names to draw from when it comes time to name them.
I open the memo feature of my smartphone wherever I am and jot down names and other ideas for my book. This gives me something to build from. If you wake up in the night with a character idea, write it down as you’ll forget it in the morning. Whenever you have an idea, make a note of it. You may find in the future older ideas could become the basis for a new book even if they don’t fit your current work.
Other Characters or People you Know
You may be able to draw ideas from characters you already like or people you know. Make a list of traits from these characters you like and a list of the traits you don’t like. This makes it easier to flesh out your characters before you write. You may also find as you write the character on the page, these traits will come out in your writing. Many popular characters tend to share certain traits, so find the ones you like the best and use those in your book. As you write, the whole picture of your characters will become clearer.
It’s also a good idea to create some character pages. This is where you’ll list all the characters and create a bio on each one. You can write down the relationships of each character and how they relate to each other. This is helpful if your book contains a lot of characters like a Game of Thrones-style novel, so you don’t get confused as you write.
Don’t Write Perfect Characters
Boring characters are those who have no flaws whatsoever. You want your characters to have flaws because this makes them more human. You want the character whether they are a hero or a villain to go through trials and tribulations in the book. This adds excitement to the novel and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat. Some of the best characters of all time had character flaws that forged their destiny in life.
A classic example is Darth Vader. He loved his wife so much he would do anything to save her, even kill. He went dark because he thought he could save her life, but she still died because he went dark. In the end, it’s that same love for his son which saved him and brought him back to the light side of the force. This is how you write a good character.
Make sure your characters have compelling flaws so they are unique. You want a character to struggle through those flaws and rise above those challenges. Some will be so flawed and can’t be saved or redeemed, which is fine too. Your character flaws are often more important than their other traits as you can show how they overcome these challenges in their lives.
Average Joe or Jane
Many famous characters are average people put into extraordinary experiences. For example, Jon Snow in Game of Thrones is the family outcast, Peter Parker is a college kid who becomes a superhero, and Harry Potter is a typical nerd before he becomes a wizard. These characters start out as average, and then they all go on an amazing adventure we can all relate to.
It’s important to have characters which are average in your books. You want regular people, so readers relate to them more and sympathize with their struggles in life. Characters rarely have “superpowers” to begin with or lead great armies to victory. They start as average and go through many challenges to get to that point near the end of the book or books you’re writing.
Change Things Up
You can, of course, throw everything out the window and write characters the way you want because it’s your book. Write the way that you feel and how you think the characters should act. It takes a lot of experimentation, but you’ll soon find the characters start coming alive on the page once you spend some time with them. As you spend time with your characters, you’ll get to know them and so will your readers once they meet them on the page.