The Art of Creating Memorable Characters

Characters play a pivotal role in narratives, regardless of their nature, be it human, animal, alien, or supernatural. Novels usually have a broader array of characters compared to shorter forms like novellas or short stories. These characters propel the plot forward through their objectives and decisions, thereby shaping the storyline’s course.

Authors often discover that characters organically steer the entire narrative; their actions and convictions can’t be shoehorned into predetermined plot points.

Effective character portrayal is essential as it can either elevate or detract from a story. While a book may encompass numerous characters, each fulfills a distinct purpose within the tale.

1: Writing the Protagonist

According to Ivory Research, this character typically takes center stage in the story, often serving as the focus for readers. They’re usually someone audiences cheer for, though not in every case.

Examples include Frodo Baggins from “Lord of the Rings,” Harry Potter from the eponymous series, and Alice from “Alice in Wonderland.”

2: Writing the Antagonist

This character serves as a foil to the protagonist, making decisions that may lead to challenging situations. They aren’t always villains; in fact, they may have understandable motives.

However, their goals and traits clash with those of the protagonist.

In “Lord of the Rings,” Gollum (Smeagol) opposes Frodo’s mission to destroy the ring due to his longing to possess it. Likewise, Draco in “Harry Potter” plays the quintessential antagonist, continually creating obstacles for Harry.

3: Writing the Villain

Not every character who opposes the protagonist is necessarily evil, but those labeled as villains typically embody malevolence and actively work against the protagonist’s objectives.

In tales such as Lord of the Rings, antagonists might be disagreeable, yet true villains like Sauron and Voldemort are nefarious, seeking not only to accomplish their aims but also to harm others.

While their motives may initially seem noble, they are prepared to resort to violence and other extreme measures to achieve their ends, as exemplified by Thanos from Marvel, whose quest to save the universe involved widespread destruction.

4: Writing the Supportive Character

These characters aren’t the focus of the story but are vital in driving the plot forward or assisting the protagonist. They accompany the main character on their journey, like Samwise Gamgee in “Lord of the Rings,” providing support and aid.

In “Harry Potter,” characters like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger serve as the friends, love interests, or mentors to the main character, fulfilling supporting roles in the narrative. They’re commonly known as supporting or secondary characters.

5: Writing a Minor Character

Not every character in a story requires in-depth development.

Some, like the bartender or a passerby, contribute to the story’s atmosphere without needing detailed backgrounds, unless it serves the plot. Despite their minor roles, they can still vary in depiction based on their relevance to the narrative.

Every character, regardless of their overall significance, possesses unique traits and motivations. Protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters all have their own values and perspectives.

A well-crafted book explores the depth and complexity of its characters, typically categorized as round or flat based on their depth and dimensionality.

6: The Flat and Round Characters

This classification assesses the depth of characters in a story, distinguishing between those that feel authentic and those that seem superficial.

Flat characters lack depth, often being one-dimensional or simplistic. They are known for one stereotypical trait and lack complexity or backstory to explain their behavior.

For instance, a character known only for their sense of humor without any further depth or explanation behind it.

When crafting your protagonist, it’s crucial to avoid making them one-dimensional.

While humor can be a part of their personality, it shouldn’t be their sole defining trait.

A well-rounded protagonist can possess a range of qualities like kindness, hot-headedness, loyalty, or a laid-back attitude.

Flat characters lack depth; they are often just names without any clear motivations, passions, or flaws. Minor characters may remain flat since they have limited appearances and don’t require extensive development for the reader to engage with them.

When it comes to crafting characters in fiction, flat characters suffice for minor roles, as they appear briefly and don’t require much depth. However, for main characters, especially if you want readers to connect deeply with them, developing rounded characters is crucial.

Readers often gravitate towards well-written villains despite their despicable actions because these villains are complex.

They’re not evil just for the sake of it; they usually have understandable motivations.

Rounded characters are multi-dimensional; their development extends beyond physical traits to encompass psychology and interactions within their society. They shouldn’t be mere caricatures but rather feel like real individuals.

In summary, for a solid story, it’s essential to create rounded protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters, as they provide depth and richness that flat characters lack.

The Bottom Line: Talking about Character Development, Their Strength and Flaws

Typically, when I conceive a novel, it typically begins with a vivid image of a character. While this approach might not be universal among writers, the process of bringing characters to life for readers is fundamental. Thus, I’ll share my method.

Before embarking on a story, I always outline a clear idea of who the main characters are. As the narrative unfolds, new characters might emerge, and some existing ones may even be discarded.

Being a plotter, I meticulously detail the significant characters in my story.

It’s crucial for me to craft them as multi-dimensional and memorable individuals, delving into their physical attributes, psychological makeup, and social backgrounds.

Characters should never be flawless. It’s unrealistic and dull to create perfect protagonists. While it’s important for characters to have strengths, their flaws should be just as prominent.

Imagine a protagonist who’s beautiful, wealthy, excels academically, and has a romantic partner, but their only flaw is an inability to whistle. It’s laughable, yet I’ve encountered books where the protagonist’s flaw is even more trivial than that.

Developing a character with flaws enhances their complexity and authenticity.

But it’s essential to steer clear of making them entirely unsympathetic.

There’s a array of imperfections to consider, like anger problems, self-doubt, indecisiveness, addiction, and social ineptitude.

But, it’s important to choose the flaws that don’t distance readers from empathizing with the main character. While flaws foster relatability, a few traits could repel us if not delicately managed.

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