Good characters are vital to any story. Think about all the TV fandoms—“Game of Thrones” comes to mind, as does “Supernatural” and the Star Wars franchise. Why do people go absolutely crazy over these shows? They love the characters. And so I’m here today, dear readers, to tell you how to create a multi-dimensional, heartstring-pulling, compelling fictional character.
There’s no way I’m getting this done in 500 words, so I’m just going to cover the basics.
Every character, be they the hero, the villain, or the guy who gets honked at for cutting someone off in traffic, needs three qualities. They are:
Everyone is good at something. Your character’s strengths are the things they’re good at or admirable qualities they possess. They might be smart, athletic, kind, funny, or attractive. They might be good at making friends or sword-fighting. Everyone character needs strengths—even the villain. The truth is that even the most despicable person has things you can admire about them—even if it’s simply their determination to reach their goal.
A quick word of warning: your characters should not be good at everything. There are three general categories your character’s strengths will fit into: intellectual, physical, or intrapersonal. In other words, they can be smart, athletic, or social butterflies—but never all three. Pick one, or two at the most, because perfect characters are boring.
To counteract your character’s strengths, they also need flaws. Thanks to a YouTuber (Ellen Brock, I believe), I now know that your character’s main flaw should be something rooted in their backstory. For example, Alynn’s character flaw is her extreme workaholic nature. She developed this after her mother was kidnapped and she basically had adulthood thrust upon her at the age of nine.
The flaw can be anything—pathological lying, a bad temper, depression—as long as it can be linked to something that happened in the character’s past. In most books, the character flaw is resolved as part of the book’s plot and/or the character’s arc.
Obviously, your character is going to have more bad qualities than just their flaw. They’re human, after all, and humans have bad qualities. Be it slouching, procrastinating, swearing, or constantly tripping over things, your character will have little things wrong with them that are called quirks.
Not all quirks are bad. I twirl my hair a lot. This is a quirk, and the only negative consequence to it is split ends. Another word for a quirk would be peculiarity, or something that makes that character unique. Quirks can be useful. My mom has the habit of clearing her throat, and it came in handy when my child self would get separated from her in Walmart.
Well, there you have it! The three things any character needs to be well-rounded and emotionally compelling, in less than 500 words! If you were a fictional character, what would some of your quirks be? And if you belonged to a fandom, which one would it be? Tell me in the comments below! (Also, feel free to ask questions, be they about the blog post or Where the Clouds Catch Fire in general.) God bless you, dear readers—and don’t forget to like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.