I have been spending the past month or two focusing a lot on my characters. I had to focus a lot on them, since they were getting illustrated. I needed to convey the characters well to the illustrator, which forced me to compile a detailed document about each character.
In my opinion, characters drive stories. Readers get drawn to characters in a story. You can have a good story or world, but if the characters are not appealing enough to the reader, it can drag down the overall experience.
With that being said, here is some of my best advice for writing characters in fiction.
Humanize your characters
No duh, your characters are humans or otherwise alive in your story. What I mean is you want the characters to not be one-tone or clichés. It’s fine to have a baseball loving guy. But if that’s all he does is talk about and love baseball, that’s not very interesting or realistic. There must be more to him and his life than JUST baseball. Perhaps he has a difficult home life, or has a cool job unrelated to baseball. Humans have complex and busy lives, that aren’t just one or two clichés. So to make compelling characters, you really have to treat each one like a complete person, with a 24 hour lifestyle. Who are their friends? What are their hobbies? What do they hate?
Think about the impression the character gives to all the other characters
This accomplishes at least two things. One, it makes you think about the relationship and dynamic your character has with others, whether it’s positive or negative. This can help too with forming dialogue between and among characters. Two, it makes you think about the outer impression and inner traits the character has. You know, like someone who pretends to be a cheerful extrovert is actually a shy introvert deep in his or her head.
Consider the character’s journey
After you have a base idea of your character, you can next look at character development. What is his or her goal or goals? Do they have traits that change or go away over time? What is something they hate or cannot stand? Knowing these things helps with avoiding making a cliché or one-tone character like I mentioned before.
Hope these help!