Creating characters that readers care about is the essence of storytelling. When readers invest emotionally in your characters, they become deeply involved in the journey, rooting for them, mourning their losses, and celebrating their victories. Here’s how to make your characters resonate with readers:
1. Make Them Relatable:
- Depth and Flaws: Perfect characters are boring. Give your characters weaknesses, fears, desires, and dreams that readers can relate to. A flawed character feels more human.
- Universal Emotions: No matter the setting or genre, tap into universal emotions like love, jealousy, ambition, or regret.
2. Give Them Clear Motivations:
- Understand the ‘why’ behind each character’s actions. A character’s motivation — be it love, revenge, fear, or ambition — drives their decisions and makes their actions credible.
3. Put Them at Stake:
- Readers care when something is at risk. Whether it’s a physical danger, a relationship at the brink, or a personal ambition, stakes make characters’ journeys meaningful.
4. Develop Their Backstories:
- Delve into their pasts. Backstories explain why characters are the way they are, making them multi-dimensional and authentic. However, be judicious in how you reveal it — too much exposition can slow down the narrative.
5. Show Growth and Change:
- Characters should evolve. Whether they learn from their mistakes, achieve their dreams, or simply change their perspective, character development keeps readers invested.
6. Make Them Active:
- Characters should influence the plot, not just react to it. An active character, who takes charge and makes decisions (good or bad), is more engaging than a passive one.
7. Create Meaningful Relationships:
- Relationships can be a mirror, reflecting a character’s strengths, weaknesses, desires, and fears. Friendships, rivalries, romances, or family dynamics can provide a deeper insight into a character’s soul.
8. Give Them Unique Voices:
- Dialogue is a powerful tool. Through conversations, internal thoughts, or monologues, you can reveal a lot about a character’s personality, beliefs, and background. Ensure each character has a distinct and consistent voice.
9. Make Them Physically Memorable:
- Vivid physical descriptions or unique mannerisms can make characters stand out. However, avoid long, tedious descriptions. Instead, sprinkle details organically throughout the narrative.
10. Evoke Sympathy and Empathy:
- Put characters in situations where readers feel for them. It could be a tragic past, an external conflict, or an internal struggle. When readers empathize, they connect.
Making readers care about your characters is a complex blend of art and craft. It’s about making them feel real, with desires, fears, strengths, and flaws. When readers see a bit of themselves in your characters or when they can feel their joys and sorrows as their own, you’ve achieved one of the most rewarding aspects of storytelling. After all, characters are the heart and soul of any narrative, and to make a story unforgettable, those hearts and souls must resonate with the reader’s own.
PS read more about Character Traits
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.