If you ask many readers of popular novels why they remember these novels, it is highly likely that they will say they loved the character(s) in the book. Jason Bourne, Harry Potter, the Drew brothers and many other characters who have thrilled fans over time all have been carefully developed.
A novel without a well-developed character is colourless and gives the reader nothing to identify with. Readers love to get caught in the storyline following the character’s tribulations, joys, failures and ultimately a happy ending (mostly). Here are some tips on developing a well-developed character.
Know your character
A character should be developed exactly like a real-life person. The character should have a birth date, he will have gone to school, have a married life or not, believe in God or not, and so on. Each of these traits should have an explanation or be threaded in the context of the story. If the character cannot read, did he have a troubled childhood? Some authors model their characters on real-life people including relatives, friends, and role models.
Make him memorable
Memorable characters provoke an image in the readers’ minds. Unique and memorable physical traits are used to make them memorable. Jack Reacher is a 6 feet giant with scars all over his body, Sherlock Holmes is a tall thin gaunt man with a sharp nose while Harry Potter has messed up hair, green eyes, and a lightning scar. Giving memorable physical traits to a character conjures up an image which the reader can liken to a person they may know on TV, work and so on, giving more life to the story.
A memorable name
Some characters are remembered for their names. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is unique and memorable. A name can represent something about the character, for example, McMahon will be an Irish character, while Joe ‘Teflon’ Brando would be a smooth criminal.
Place the context
The character does not live in a vacuum. He knows and interacts with people. He has been through several incidents in life which may have a bearing on what is going on at that particular moment. If he sees a defenceless person getting attacked, for example, this will bring back memories of poor Aunt Gladys who kept getting battered by his alcoholic step-uncle.
The character’s journey
The character should have a reason for his actions. It could be love, money, revenge or any other motivation. Where does the character start and where does he end? Is he a farmer riding after bad men who disrupted his quiet way of life and took his daughter away? Will he get his revenge and daughter back?
How do you make sure that your characters are well developed? Got any extra tips? Pop them in the comments!