Despite the clothes, the props, and the setting I fashioned for my deck chair earlier today, he failed to live up to my expectations for a character worthy of his own story. He was flat rather than well-rounded, and content watching life pass him by rather than taking an active role in it. That type of character might help move a story forward in the same way a movie extra does, but main characters need to be fully developed.
Here are a few things you can do to keep your characters from being lifeless and flat:
1. Give each of them a distinctive voice. Readers should be able to recognize the speech patterns and thoughts of each of the main characters.
2. Make the dialog believable, but leave out the boring conversational crutches that real people depend upon—like discussing the weather (unless it’s crucial to the plot).
3. Let the character’s personal taste in clothes and possessions hint at her values and goals.
4. Have the choices they make reveal their personality strengths and weaknesses.
5. Show characters acting and reacting in ways the reader will understand and empathize with.
6. Pay attention to the little details that distinguish real people from one another, like the way they respond to children, the type of goodies they keep in a bowl on the kitchen counter, or the personal tics they display when they’re nervous.
Here are some sites that offer good suggestions to help create believable characters:
Rounded characters vs flat ones
Creating empathetic characters
Giving your characters life
Characters and plots
Can an exciting plot keep you reading even if the characters are poorly developed? Do you relate better to characters that have values or beliefs similar to your own, or does that matter when you’re reading? How can writers make characters believable if they haven’t experienced the things they are writing about—like murder, romance, super powers, etc?