I’ve heard people say that in order to create a fully fleshed out character, you must first have a setting and a story in which to place them. Others, on the other hand, have said that you should create a character first, at least a basic idea of a character, and then build the story around them.
I prefer the latter, but it has not always been this way. For a long time, I would write a story and the characters at the same time without much thought to what the character might be like; I would focus on the way the character looked rather than personality traits or habits and inevitably each character would fall flat.
I used to find character creation extremely difficult in that, no matter what I tried, I just couldn’t get them to feel believable. Every character I created would be clearly identifiable in appearance, but in every other way, they all felt the same and I didn’t know what I could do to fix the problem.
It was only when I began to read books about writing and spent hours, days and even weeks researching online that I began to realise that there was no single set way to create a character. However, no matter what your process is for creating a character, you should try to make your them believable.
The first thing I think anybody writing fiction should keep in mind is that a character doesn’t have to be realistic, they just have to be believable. What I mean is that Superman, the Little Mermaid and Wile E. Coyote are not realistic, but they all share qualities which make them believable. They have goals, wants and needs and most importantly, flaws.
In my opinion, a believable character is one with whom a reader is able to connect.
A reader is more likely to be able to do this when they see something in the character that they may also see in themselves, or the character may have a similar want or need as the reader, and in that, they are able to experience the adventure or the story vicariously through the character.
Superman, for example mainly wants to protect Metropolis (and the world) from evil, though he has a weakness to Kryptonite (his flaw). The fact that he wants good to triumph over evil is something that most of us can relate to, thereby creating a connection to the character. I doubt there are many of us going through daily life wanting evil to triumph over good!
The Little Mermaid’s fundamental goal is to become human so that she can be with her prince. In my opinion, her flaw is that she wants to change herself in order to make the prince fall in love with her. We’re able to connect with her because we want her to find the happiness she so clearly lacks and since she’s going through such trouble to get what she wants, we also cheer her on to succeed in her desire to find true love (and an immortal soul in the original story). Who hasn’t wanted to fall in love at some point and who among us can honestly say that we wouldn’t change a single part of ourselves? (If you are such a person then I am genuinely delighted for you and you should consider yourself part of a minority, because I think most people at some point have had their moments of self-doubt and felt self-conscious about their appearance).
We all know that the primary goal of Wile E. Coyote is to catch the Road Runner, in fact, I would argue that it is his only goal. While his main flaw is his overconfidence; he always assumes that his schemes are going to work and that he will catch the Road Runner, but invariably, the Road Runner manages to outsmart him.
So you see, the main things to explore when creating a character or at least the things that make them relatable to a reader are their goals and flaws. These are the connectable parts of any character, even of real people, that we all relate to in varying degrees.
Anyway, I think I’ve gone on for long enough. Thanks as usual for reading this far if you did, it is greatly appreciated.