Abigail Lopez

Give them a glass of water.

I will never forget the best advice I have ever read from a Pinterest blog that to write memorable characters, you, as the author, must first give them a purpose. Yes, that sounds familiar to our school’s motto, but seriously don’t let the slogan “live your purpose” apply only to humans in the flesh and blood. From your imagination to your pen, your fictional characters also require help to develop. Only you can further grow your skills to flesh out your cast of characters and make them worthy of being distinguished. If you have kept reading thus far, stay around to hear my top six tips on how to write memorable characters.

Find the Flaws

Step number one is to find a face and give the character flaws. Start with the gender, age, height, born, and looks. Then add the name and where the character is from to accompany the basics of a Get-To-Know-Me questionnaire. Here, I like to use Pinterest as a source to visualize further and better understand who my characters are in my plot. Then add the flaw component, and make them realistic to human nature. Flaws help readers connect to characters because we find ourselves in moments of literature. Who doesn’t like discovering characters struggling to balance social and school life? Lastly, while conjuring your character, ensure there is something unique about them physically or personally. All the great writers do that, from J.R.R. Tolkien making Frodo Baggins the ring bearer to J.K. Rowling giving Harry Potter a lightning bolt scar. If you struggle to establish characters, there are also models and online resources to help in this first step.

Character through Conflict

The second tip is to put the characters into place through their conflict, setting, and plot development. When thinking of conflict, consider how obstacles challenge the character to grow, change, and overcome. Even think about how to keep the character away from what they want to achieve. Now, where does all of this occur? Do you want a tropical setting or an office building? What matches your character’s aesthetic or the genre best? Once the setting is established, you can calculate how you want your character to grow as the plot develops from point A to point Band then beyond.

Creating Interest

Great! Now the foundation is established on how to make memorable and relatable characters. The third trick is to add wording and a bit of a backstory. Dialogue must be formatted according to common standards and must match your characters. You would not want every character to call out one another’s name unless the setting is on fire or a character like Sally dropped her notebook while running late to a class. The text must convey how humans speak and maintain distinct voices and manners of speaking. Additionally, when writing, don’t forget to use description, symbolism, foreshadowing, and subtle details to make your work even better.

Fire Energy - Holding Love and Light within IMG_0711-009
Fire Energy – Holding Love and Light within IMG_0711-009” by iezalel7williams is marked with CC0 1.0.

Say It Well

Character interactions through dialogue also bring forth the essential aspect of background. No character, like a human, appears from thin air, and likewise, you need to think about your character’s past. A backstory doesn’t have to be traumatic or full of all the nitty-gritty details. Having just a few memories, and explaining why a character lives in their situation and setting, is sufficient to begin a story. The rest will unravel as the plot does, and if unplanned events occur, it is called magic, and most writers keep it.

Avoid Clichés

The fourth tip is to be aware of stereotypes and aim to avoid them when making characters. Firstly, research, especially if your character is from a different culture, and know your material before someone else calls you out on it. If you have a character from a different country, consider a traditional name, and understand the dynamics to the best of your research. If that does not suit you, then listen to the cliché of “write what you know” since that would minimize research. However, if you want to take on the first option, aim to seek out people from the culture you are trying to understand better and write about.

Keep It Consistent

The second to last tip is to keep track of your characters to establish a timeline and better know your characters yourself. Consider keeping a bulletin list or a document that keeps all the information and visuals of your characters together. If you make a list, you won’t mistakenly write a character with hazel eyes and then turn them blue halfway through the story. When keeping track, it can also minimize plot holes and help you repeat yourself less. No reader likes being told the same information over and over again.

Motivate & Move

Glass of Water
Glass of Water” by Greg Riegler Photography is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Finally, after all that reading, you definitely showcased purpose and the drive to follow through on your motivation. Your cast of characters also needs to exhibit this same drive. Do you recall the glass of water scene? Well, when in doubt, all characters exist for a purpose. As a writer, you put each character in a setting for specific and different reasons. You can only write effectively and engagingly if characters have interest and self-efficacy. Characters cannot simply exist and do no actions. An example of purpose can be when a parent awakens their young child early so the family can head to the airport ahead of schedule. Another instance involves a mother waking up her young child so they can say farewell while the father leaves for deployment. Both scenes are different but are universal in how purpose drives actions to occur deliberately, and a writer can avoid the flat, two-dimensional void of a plot. When in doubt of a purpose for a character, at least have them grab a drink while they exist on the page. As a character, they might not be slaying dragons, but at least they are moving from point A to point B, while as a writer, you can try to picture the rest of your characters’ world.