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6 Tips for Writing Memorable Characters

Lorel Marie is the proud mother of five dogs, two cats, and far too many characters to count. She's an aspiring author and artist.

First Off, What Makes a Good Character?

A good character always depends on how the author writes them, whether they are a selfish antagonist, a beloved protagonist, or a laughable sidekick. In order for the reader to be invested in a story, the characters must be as beautifully written as the story itself. A reader must have a connection with the people within the writing, wanting to read more and see them either reach the goals they set out for or to ultimately fail.

While a well thought-out story is important, so are the personalities, motivations, and backstories of the characters the reader will hopefully fall in love with. The characters within the twist and turns of a story are what leaves the reader craving more. So it's very important to give them that in order to receive the reactions you desire.

But how exactly does one write an interesting character? What do you do in order to make a character original? Let's take a look at some helpful tips to take into consideration in order to reach your goals.

1. Figure Out the Character's Backstory

The backstory of a character is very important to figure out when writing. This oftentimes leads up to what the character is like during the story, affecting their personality, motives, and overall morals. It helps the reader understand where the character is coming from, whether their history is good, bad, or in between. A backstory either justifies their actions or it does not⁠—something for the reader to decide or ponder over. A well-written backstory is the first step to making a lovable character. If you want your antagonist, protagonist, or made-up being to jump off the paper, screen, etc., you must have a backstory.

The character's background also effects their development, whether it's positive or not. One's development is about more than just their physical features; it has far more depth. So ask yourself when planning your character out:

  • Where were they born?
  • What was their childhood like?
  • Where are their parents?
  • Do they have fears; what are these fears?
  • What could be the reason for them to be the way they are now?

The more you wonder, the longer you question and develop your character. The more believable the character's background, the more real and lovable your character will be.

2. Don't Be Afraid to Make an Imperfect Character

Nobody is perfect; Miley Cyrus made this clear. A character with little to no imperfections is boring. Life doesn't give you everything your heart desires on a silver platter; one can't just not possess flaws. A character with flaws, insecurities, and selfish desires feels more real. While the reader often seeks out a world crafted to whisk them away from reality, don't be afraid to make the characters real despite living in a fantasy world.

Someone who has fears, loses things that can't ever possibly be given back, and has obvious flaws can capture the reader's attention. Sometimes, a reader can even compare themselves to the character, deepening their love for them. If a character is too perfect, they get boring, and so does the story. If they constantly receive everything they want and live life with absolutely nothing that could possibly make them imperfect, the story lacks depth.

If everything always goes the character's way, the story will constantly repeat the same themes and lack challenges for its characters. An imperfect character faces challenges, daunting tasks, near-death experiences, loss, and consequences for their actions.

3. Give Them a Voice and Be the One That Lets It Be Heard

As odd as it may feel, communicate with your characters. Close your eyes and envision them, feel them, and just hear them. Place yourself in their shoes, and think the way the character thinks. Imagine situations and think about what the character would do in them⁠—what they would say, and what they would think and feel.

Once you develop an emotional connection to the character and you yourself as the author knows them, you can successfully give them a voice. Even when writing and scripting, you should still have these conversations. Wonder how the character would say a certain thing and how they'd move or react. Give the character their own voice, and use their voice to put their thoughts into words. Craft the world around them and their feelings. Feel connected to the character the way you want your readers to. After all, if you have no connections to the character, how can you write them in a believable way?

4. Make a World That's Just as Lovable

The world the character lives in has to be just as believable and as well-planned as the people themselves. Find a way to make the world its own character, day dream about how it works and how the characters within it go about their lives. Your characters are influenced by the world around them, much like we are in real life.

Do research, if needed, and build off ideas with already existing ideas. However, be sure to make it original; while inspiration is one thing, completely ripping off another creator's hard work is wrong. Twist your world in ways you feel are right, and allow yourself to envision how it works. Is the world like modern days, or is it less developed or more? Does the story take place in the city or somewhere else? If it's not the real world, what's its name? Creating a good world is just as important as creating a good character and can often heavily influence the character's actions.

5. Don't Be Afraid to Make It Personal

A character's personality is important. However, you cannot be afraid to add a bit of yourself into the people you are writing. Whether this being your desires, your fears, doubt or thoughts, having that emotional connection can be important. Seeing yourself within the characters you're writing about can allow you to fall deeper into them and use the connection to make a more interesting story.

The characters are created by you, so why not make them at least a little bit like you? Doing this can also spark connections to the characters from the readers, whether this is the villains selfish needs, the protagonist's self doubts, etc. It can also be useful to take traits from the people around you, forming a character loosely based on them. However, it's important to know that you shouldn't make an exact copy of the person you're basing them off of.

6. Relationships Between Characters Matter

When a character interacts with another, it's important to note who they are to each other. This can be a romantic relationship or a competitive or friendly rivalry. The way a character speaks to another can also help build motives and plot lines.

A story can be based entirely on the relationship our protagonist has with another. Like Romeo and Juliet, the love the two had for each other triggered the domino effect that ultimately led to the death of the two characters.

The protagonist's relationship with a friend or lover is just as important as the one they have with the antagonist. Creating backstories around the dynamics can help build a even more realistic story and leave the readers craving to see the characters interact with each other more.