Writing Tips: Creating a Compelling Character

Jo and Alistair with Priss

What makes Huck Finn someone that everyone who has ever read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remembers forever?

Why were so many watchers of Game of Thrones rooting for Tyrion Lannister to make it to the finale alive? (The jury still being out on the books, I mention the series…) Or was that just me…?

People have been fascinated by the love story of Romeo and Juliet for–literally–centuries. Why do people care about a teenage love story hundreds of years after it was written?

It is because they are fully realized characters with both strengths and weaknesses. They are flawed individuals who do the best they can in the world they live in but aren’t always right any more than they are always wrong. Will Jo and Alistair ever make that level? If I am being honest…probably not. But some character I write someday might. It is the dream of all authors, isn’t it?

When you are writing a story, be it short or long, this is a truth to hold in mind. Of course, in a short story, you might need only one flaw in a hero or one redeeming feature in a villain. There isn’t a lot of room for character development–but there should be something. Here’s a list of some flaws that might be handy for you.

How do you decide what traits to use? What incidents inform your character’s actions? These are decisions you need to make for your characters because they can’t do it for themselves. But you don’t have to start from complete scratch. There are lots of resources to help. For example, a book on creating good characters like Dynamic Characters: How to Create Personalities that Keep Readers Captivated by Nancy Kress can be a great starting place. Here’s another potential resource Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development (Helping Writers Become Authors Book 7) by K. M. Weiland.

While you are waiting for that Amazon delivery, you can start with a character sheet like this one that will help you get to the depths of your character.

Do you have any special tricks or tips to share? What is the most important attribute you look for in a character?

Leave a comment below if you want to join the conversation. 🙂

About RieSheridanRose

Rie Sheridan Rose multitasks. A lot. Her short stories appear in numerous anthologies, including Nightmare Stalkers and Dream Walkers Vols. 1 and 2,  and Killing It Softly. She has authored twelve novels, six poetry chapbooks, and lyrics for dozens of songs. She tweets as @RieSheridanRose.
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