You want your characters to be memorable and even loved (or loathed if that is your intention)? Then you need to make them compelling and three-dimensional. Think of the characters you love from your favourite books, tv shows or films. Why do you care about them? Is it because they are funny, or smart or impossibly cool?
Imagine you were making a film of your novel. Who would you cast as your protagonist? How does your character dress? Do they have piercings? Tattoos? Scars? How do they walk and talk? What do they carry with them on a daily basis?
What is your character’s name? If you are stuck look in name books or phone books. Where is your character from? What is their heritage? That might have an influence over their name. What type of person does the name conjure up? Who do you think of when you think of someone named Mary-Sue, Clark, Diego or Beatrice?
Really delve down into your character. Imagine you are interviewing them. What is their background and education? Think of some of their favourite things? Music? Books? Hobbies? What are their ethics? Religious views? Political leanings? Keep adding layer upon layer. You won’t necessarily write all of these details down in your story but they might be useful to know.
Where does your character live? Do they live with anyone? What are their friends like? What is their occupation? Keep digging until your character feels real to you.
You could keep a notebook for that particular character, or type up a biography or collect magazine cuttings. Perhaps you could start a board on Pinterest for your character.
Here is a list of things I usually like to note down about my main characters before I start writing:
- Family members
- Physical Appearance; height, build, skin colour, hair colour and cut, eye colour, distinguishing features
- Languages spoken
- Relationship status
- Personality type
- Bad habits
- What is their darkest secret?
- If they could take 3 items to a desert island, what would they be?
- Most significant moment in their life so far?
Obviously you can keep going with this and continuously add to it. Minor characters biographies don’t need to be as in-depth if you don’t want them to be.
And lastly, it probably isn’t best to base a character on someone you know – you might get into trouble!