You might think crafting a character for your story will be one of the most problematic things you will ever have to do. But that’s not necessarily the case. You should look around you; you are surrounded with characters.
You might also think that a writer is the quiet person sitting in the corner watching the room, looking for story ideas and characters. No, it is just a lifetime observations. Observation is the writer’s greatest tool. I personally observe people, how they talk, how they walk and most importantly how they interact with each other, and what and how they talk about to each other and me, and how they express themselves.
It is interviewing without asking a ton of questions. All of your life you have people going in and out of your life. Some you like; some you emulate; others you wish to never see again. You can learn from all of them.
On a personal level, you have relatives; everyone does and some of them you wish you were not related to. However everyone, and I do mean everyone, has bits and pieces of their personality that make them who they are. And you can immediately identify them by those bits and pieces. As a writer you need to do as I do: catalog those morsels of personality traits so that you can give dimension to a fictional character in a story.
The trick is to invent characters with some of that and some of this; no totally borrowed emotional and physical traits of your least-favorite aunt or uncle and just tag a character name to them. Using your imagination to mix and match and truly invent a character is more satisfying; this does not open you up to accusations of character assassination at family gatherings, like Thanksgiving. Think about it.
So what makes a good character? Good question, with no real good answers. But one thing is universal to this quest. A main character that your readership can identify with, so story idea and main character must embrace, walk hand-in-hand down the aisle of your story together. And I know this from years of reading not so great stories, long and short. I lose interest in the story if the author has not invested some real creative blood, sweat and tears into crafting a main character that maintains interest.
This brings up a most important point; character rapport. You must establish a relationship between the reader and the main character: no rapport, no story, short and sweet. A good main character has a secret or quality or history or all of that aforementioned that the reader wants to discover. Another tact could be that the reader wants to go on the adventure with this character, a quest of self-discovery and find out that they are capable of things that they themselves were unaware that they could accomplish.
Social underdogs are popular too, and ones that have all the above mentioned dimensional facets can be found throughout classic literature. So polishing a character into a dominant diamond you can build your story on is key to a “Can’t put it down read”.
If you should have any questions about this article please drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org)