Have you ever met a person who seems almost perfect? I mean, not perfect, but they just didn’t seem to have any flaws in your eyes? Maybe it was the first time you discovered ‘boys’ (or girls) and that kid was just dreamy! Great hair. A beautiful smile. Eyes in the right place. There was nothing wrong with them. Now, let’s say it was someone of the same sex (as in a friend). You had freckles and he didn’t. Or you had crazy hair and hers was long and silky. You wished you had those characteristics and you may have even tried to emulate them, fussing in the mirror for hours.
Well, if you are a writer, you can do that right now by creating characters with qualities and physical attributes you’ve always wanted. But what’s even cooler is you can also give your characters flaws and then make them disliked or mistreated in your books! That might be kind of a harsh way to get back at that girl or boy you envied, but if that’s what it takes to make your characters real, I say GO FOR IT!
Our protagonists can’t be all goody-two-shoes or else they’d be boring. They must have some kind of inadequacies, quirks, idiosyncrasies or whatever you want to call them. I don’t know about you but no one I know is without sin. So, make the most of your writing by making your characters lifelike.
One way I do this is to think of a person in my past; someone I knew pretty well, and turn that person into a character. If I do this I instantly know how that character is going to act or react to just about anything I put in his way.
I also do a sort of character development process. Some interview their characters, others write out long descriptions of likes and dislikes, but I just think about certain situations I want to put them in and then write down how they’d respond.
For instance, I wrote a character who was really a guy I worked with in TV. He was smart-alecky, eccentric and really neat (as in neat). He was just what my book needed and the perfect foil for my protagonist, who thought she knew everything.
When you sit down to ‘get to know’ your characters, think about the process of making a new friend: first you get their name, then you start talking. They tell you where they live, what kind of work they do, then you start discussing stuff like restaurants, waiters, nail technicians…and that is where the personality differences emerge.
Do that with your characters and you’ll find out just what they’re really like. I bet you’ll turn out much better characters that readers will just love (or love to hate).