Think of a book that made you care, that had you so invested in the outcome that you wanted to cry or shout or throw the book when things didn’t go the right way. When you think of that book, what is it that you think about? The setting? The plot? Or the characters?
For me, a good plot keeps me hooked, but a good character makes me feel.
Anne Of Green Gables. The Hunger Games. The gang from Harry Potter.
Would any of these books have such lasting and widespread success if the characters didn’t feel so real to the readers? I don’t think they would. Because these characters feel like someone we know. A friend. An ally. Someone we care about.
So, what is it about these characters that draws us in? What makes them feel so real?
I believe it’s their quirks. Their vulnerability. Their flaws. They have insecurities, they doubt themselves, they feel anger and shame and sorrow. But they also feel happiness and joy – just like a real person would.
Making sure your characters are well-rounded is what brings them to life.
So give them flaws. Make them doubt themselves. Make them feel and think things we’ve all felt and thought before, something the reader can identify with and have an, “I’ve felt that way too,” moment.
Here are some articles to check out if you want to some writing tips:
When editing, character consistency is something that’s easy to overlook, but your character’s behavior and personality need to be true to who you’ve developed them to be. That’s not to say that the character can’t change and evolve over the course of the story, they can, but you need to include the reader in on the character’s inner journey.
For example, a character who is easy going and forgiving can’t suddenly have a wicked vendetta, and vice versa – a vengeful character can’t suddenly become forgiving – not without you showing the reader how the change came about.
I’m guilty of this myself.
Because sure, your MC is a kind, patient, wonderful human being except for that ONE person. And haven’t we all had that person in our life? That someone who just rubs us the wrong way, even if it’s for a reason we can’t quite pinpoint? It’s fine for your character to have that flaw too – you want your characters to be realistic. But just because YOU know that this is your character’s ONE person, it doesn’t mean your readers will know. If this is behavior that’s out of character for them, you need to address it somehow.
There are many ways this can be done, including internal dialogue or in discussion with another character, other characters discussing the MC’s uncharacteristic behavior, maybe even in conversation with that ONE person themselves – have them call the MC out!
Here are some articles to help you keep your character’s behavior and personality consistent: