This month we’ll be discussing how to write brilliant relatable main characters, interesting supportive characters, and successfully dynamic antagonists. I’ve composed a walkthrough of sorts, based on personal observations and experiences, and bits of wisdom I’ve collected from other writers over the years.
First Step: Write a Basic Profile for each character. This should cover the following:
Character type- Clarify if it is a main character, supportive character, or antagonist/ villain.
Physical description- Age, Hair, eyes, face shape, height, build, skin tone, highlights (freckles, scars, warts, big ears, fuzzy eyebrows, etc)
Personality- Mama’s boy, outgoing, arrogant, timid, dorky, spunky, artistic, opinionated, laidback, etc.
Physical Quirks- Always flipping her hair, bites fingernails, hand twitches, smiles too much, nods a lot, nervous laughs, laughs like a horse, etc.
Personality Quirks- These could include pet peeves, things they’re very interested in, emotional reactions to certain topics, chips off the shoulder, things that bring out the child in them, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, etc.
A Brief Bio that covers- Where they’re from, what their parents did/do for a living (this can really explain a lot about a character), siblings and other relevant family members, describe their house (or apartment, car, trailer), a few sentences on how life was for them growing up, highlight defining moments relevant to the story.
Second Step: If all goes well, writing this basic profile should give you lots of ideas as to how to further develop this character. Just the act of filling in the blanks will get your creative juices flowing. Once you’re done writing Basic Profiles, take it to the next step, and write a one to two page background story. Be sure to highlight/underline key plot points you want to use, as well as important details like DATES, (it is really important to keep track of an accurate timeline if you want your story to be believable).
Some Tips & Words of Wisdom:
One of my beta readers (Here's to you Cindy Sorensen!) made an excellent point that while you’re writing a character, it’s important to show what the character is feeling, not tell. It’s what can make the difference between a pretty good story and a great one. Your readers want to figure some things out on their own, and don’t always want everything handed to them cut and dried. Here is an example of Telling how someone feels in your story versus Showing:
1. Telling: “Joey looked really sad suddenly.”
2. Showing: “Joey’s face fell, and he turned away with slumped shoulders.”
That’s just an example off the top of my head, I’m sure you can probably come up with something better, but I hope you get the idea. Also, unless you’re writing in Omnipotent, your main character can’t always “know” what another character is feeling. If your character has to deduce what someone is feeling, then really your reader does, too.
When writing characters, Motivation is terribly important for both protagonist and antagonist and supportive characters. When a character has realistic motivation (the reader doesn’t have to agree with their motive, just understand it), it makes them much more believable and “Brings them to Life.”
Along those same lines, characters need to noticeably grow and change through-out the story. Personal philosophy, perspective, beliefs, opinions, all these change or adapt with experiences in real people, so it should be the same with written characters to make them more "relatable."
I’d Love to hear your thoughts on this article. If you disagree with something or think I’ve left out something important, leave a comment. If you have another tip or thought to add, or if you found this article useful, leave a comment! I hope this has helped you in some way.
Happy Writing, my fellow storytellers. =)
~Diana J. Davidson, Author of ONE OF A KIND and THE SKYSLES OF WYN’AUREN