How to Write Fictional Characters Your Readers Will Remember
When I first began writing fiction, over a decade ago, I was fascinated by the idea that a writer develops a protagonist, and an antagonist, then put a few supporting characters into the mix, followed by sit-down-and-write-it.
It really isn’t that simple. It took me a while to write unforgettable fictional characters.
The thought of being able to create a character gave me a feeling of power. Now, I knew how Doctor Frankenstein felt, what drove him on in his mad adventures to create a super human being.
He nearly did, until it all went wrong.
His dream slipped away, and his perfect human being descended into madness, then wreaked havoc among the local villagers.
In spite of this, he still believed he could save the monster, and make something good out of the wreckage of years of experimentation.
The point of the story is that Doctor Frankenstein thought he had the formula. He didn’t, there was something missing from the mix. It was his first attempt, and he messed up.
Writers are similar in their first attempts at building characters. Many new writers falsely believe that a story is a choice between plot driven, or character driven.
It seems that many go for plot-driven story, then end up in a car crash when their character doesn't have stage presence.
Plot driven still needs a strong leading role. Cardboard is prone to getting wet in the rain. A rounded character will always remember to take an umbrella, just in case the story turns stormy.
So, the writer sits down, pen and paper, and writes a list of attributes about what the character looks like. What the character’s favourite colour is, music, food, height, and give the character a job.
Then they start the story again. The character still won’t yield to the story.
They are hoping for a formula, like Doctor Frankenstein. Brown hair, grey eyes, 6 ft, and slim with a bolt through his neck, doesn’t make character, it makes for an ID parade at the…