I find that creating your character seems to be the best way to start off a story, even though the book I’m revising right now was created from the setting. Creating a character is a lot more complicated than it looks, and it took me quite a while to form my main character, Elizabeth, to be exactly right for the story.
Typically when you pick up a book, just for leisurely reading, you want to get away from reality, from work or school. In this case, they want to read about someone who is both just like them, and just the opposite. They want the person to be average, but to be daring or brave or sarcastic, having to make decisions or face obstacles that the average person doesn’t. They want the character to be who they can’t because of what they do.
The reader also wants to connect to the character, so they can put themselves in their shoes.
How do you make a character fit in these perimeters and be completely new and original? That’s tough, when taking realism into account. I have found a few tips that might or might not apply to your story because every story can’t follow the same rules, but here are some methods that I’ve found work for me:
To write a character that your reader can connect to, you must connect to that character yourself. You have dig deep into their deepest desires and their most foreboding fears. They should want something, whether it’s love, happiness, peace, knowledge, closure, revenge, justice or anything else that anyone could want out of life. These desires should drive their actions, but fears should be considered as well. A character will never have a certain number of fears, mainly because all challenges in the story will promote more risk, or more danger, or slim their chances of succeeding. Everybody fears failure, fears not being able to get to their desires, which could be a challenge they face in the story.
Also to connect to the character, and this isn’t required or anything, I like to have the characters speak out loud the kind of snide or sarcastic remarks that you’d only think in your head. It’s like making the character’s personality someone you could be, but not exactly who you are, so you can connect, but the character can surprise you because it’s not something you would expect of them.
I’ve found something that can help with the actions of the characters. I find it difficult to bring a character to life, mainly because we do things everyday that we don’t think to include in our characters. What I mean by this is that we don’t make mental notes when we sneeze or crinkle our eyes or raise our eyebrows or bite our nails. These are things that we don’t think to add to a story because we’ve forgotten that they exist at all, when we are all caught up in the moment. This really brings a character to life, and adding these things in places we definitely wouldn’t think of them, like in the climax of a story, make s the experience all the more real.
This goes hand in hand with my number one rule: Show don’t Tell. Explain what their expression looks like rather than what it means.
You can’t make your protagonists perfect either. Perfection should be something that, if anything, they strive for. Of course, they can’t achieve this, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone from doing the best they can in reality.
It is also unrealistic, I think, to make your antagonists completely evil. In every person there is some good and some bad, and sometimes those to get blended together or mixed up, which is perfectly fine. Sometimes the good in someone makes them bad, like if someone is trying to avenge the death of a loved one by hurting someone else.
I read somewhere that a protagonist should be 60% good and 40% bad. And antagonist should be vise versa. The side characters should be closer to half and half, so there is some kind of division between the protagonist and antagonist, and it creates the possibility that a friend could turn on them.
Finally, I also find it important that your character should fit into his or her setting. For example, if your character was born and living in a Japanese city, they will most likely have a Japanese name. If they grew up in Arizona, they would be used to the heat.
Most importantly, I think is to figure out how hard you want it to be to write as the character. If you are a thirty year old man trying to write the character of a teenage girl, you might not get very far unless you are up to the challenge, but some people can do it, like John Green in The Fault in our Stars. That’s why I find it hard to write as Rick Owens in Looking For Lily, because his personality and age difference than mine makes it more complicated. So unless you are up to the challenge, I recommend developing a character that you can relate to on some scale.
Good luck and I hope this helped!