One of the most important parts of a story is character progression. We’re not going to care about what happens to the character if we don’t care about the character themselves. However that can be hard, making someone care about someone who doesn’t exist can be difficult.
With everything challenging, there are few things that you should avoid to be successful.
Stereotypical Characters: We’ve seen these characters before. They’re interesting at first but when they’re reused over and over they get boring. It’s like listening to the same 5 songs over and over. At first they’re great songs, but eventually they’ll get boring and you’ll be dyeing to hear something new.
Perfect Characters: Have you ever known someone that was just perfect? They were pretty, rich. They had everything going for them. And even though you’ll never admit it, you hated those people. It’s the same with characters. A character with no flaws makes you not like the character as much as you would if they had at least one thing that makes them weak, or something that they need to get over.
And here are things that you should attempt to have to make your characters stronger.
Have the reader befriend the character: When you meet someone new, you don’t tell them every single detail and story in your life. You give a few details, maybe give out your hobbies. But as you get to know this person you begin revealing secrets, regrets and telling more personal stories. This is how it should be with your character. Now when you meet someone new, you may notice some fears but you gradually learn why that is. For example, lets say you meet someone new, and you really like them, and you want to try and be in a relationship with them. But they’re scared of commitment. When you first meet them, you won’t demand to know why, but as you get closer, you learn that maybe they were cheated on, or his parents got a divorce when he was a kid, or a loved one just recently passed away. It’s the same with a character. Perhaps another character is showing strong feelings for them but they refuse to make a move. It is then revealed that your character’s husband or wife just passed away, and thats why they are struggling to move on with someone else.
They’re people too: Base characters off real people you know in your life, or maybe yourself. The first story i wrote was based off of me if i was a detective. The choices the character made would be the same ones i would make if i was in his shoes. In my recent stories, both main and side characters are based off of close friends, family members and even bullies i had in school. It’s the easiest way to create a real character. And then you don’t have to come up with a name either. That’s the hardest part in my opinion.
Don’t be afraid of major flaws: A character with flaws is a character with a backstory. Once we learn what the flaw is we can learn what it was that caused it. Than we can sympathize for the character. This can cause once hated characters to be fan favorites. For example, Theres an old man that is the neighbor to a young married couple with young children. These children play in the front lawn and are loud. The old man comes out and yells at them. The children accidentally throw their favorite ball over the fence and into the old man’s back yard and he is rude about giving it back. In the beginning we hate this old man. Why is he such a jerk? But maybe one day, the wife goes over his house to get the ball back and the man leave the door open and she sees a family photo, of the old man but younger with a wife and toddler. Then we learn that his wife and child died in a car crash when his son was the age of their kids. Now we are sympathetic for this character. We learn about why the old man is the way he is.
Why are you here: A character’s motivation is huge. And maybe they don’t even know what it is. They could be telling people why they are doing what they do but deep down they themselves don’t believe it. It isn’t until later, maybe the end of the story that they truly figure out why they are doing what they are doing. For example, a kid joins the army. When friends and family ask why, he tells them because he wants to be one of the ones responsible for the safety of the country. And while that may be true, its not the real reason why he signed up. At the end of the story, he rescues one his teammates and the teammate says to him “thanks brother.” Its right there that he realizes he joined for the family that the military provides. Because growing up he felt he was an outcast from his family, the black sheep. But here in the military he is given the family that he always wanted.
Character progression can be hard, and can even lead writers to give up on their story or scrap characters in general. Hopefully these few dos and don’ts will help you continue writing and improve your character building skills.