I believe that a good character is what makes a good book.
I believe that a good character is even more crucial than a good storyline. Because no matter where the story goes, if your reader loves the character, he will want to follow it.
Creating characters is one of the most fun parts of writing. I mean, do any of you writers NOT love searching Pinterest for pictures of your character and dialogue prompts that are 'so them?'
That's what I thought.
But creating characters is also very important! A crummy character can instantly set you up for failure and turn your reader away.
So, question... what makes a good character? A GREAT character?
First, let me tell you about my favorite fictional character in the history of ever.
August Pullman (Wonder by R.J. Palacio)
In case you have never read it, Wonder tells the story of Auggie: a little boy with a face deformity. He's been through a lot, both physically and emotionally. He's different, but he's so much like every other fifth-grade boy at the same time. August has had people scream and run away from him at the sight of his face, and he's endured more surgeries than most of us probably have. But still, he's a little boy who loves Star Wars, his dog, his family, and best friends. He's a great student, he's sarcastic, and there are people he doesn't like too much.
Auggie is a relatable character--even if you do have a normal face.
HINT: the key to a good character is a relatable one.
Your characters, no matter who they are or what they're like, NEED to be relatable. This goes for both their personality, and their feelings.
They need to have attributes, quirks, flaws, pros & cons, that we can all relate to. Maybe I'm not the most popular girl at my school, and I don't know everybody, and I'm not chatty like that character is, but I do relate to the reason she's that way: she enjoys being liked by other people. Make sure you show me that when I'm reading about her.
And as far as emotion/feelings go, sometimes, you have an average, everyday sort of hero. Give him feelings we can relate to. Maybe I haven't lost my mom to cancer like he has, but I've felt pain, and make sure I can remember that pain when I read about his.
And sometimes, we have an original character like Auggie. My face isn't deformed, but I've been embarrassed before, and Palacio really made me remember that feeling when Auggie was made fun of.
You see, each obstacle you place before your character receives a reaction from them. It brings out, alters, and changes their emotions and their character. Make sure that your reader, no matter who they may be, can understand and feel their reaction. This is what makes realistic characters, and it that's what makes them likable.
One more thing... Every character has to be original.
I don't mean that they have to have a disability or a sickness. I don't mean they have to be totally out of this world. However, there is something that makes all of us different. We all have something that makes us us, and your character needs to have it to.
Maybe it's something big that makes him original: he's in a wheelchair. Or maybe it's as simple as the fact that she loves to play video games. Give him/her something that makes them who they are. Maybe it's a good thing, or maybe it's not.
The best thing you can do to help you create great characters, is to read, and think through your own favorites. What do they have in common? And what do they not?
Who are your favorite characters? I'd love to hear in the comments below!