If you were given just the description of a famous character, would you be able to guess them?
A puritan mother who provides for her young daughter despite being scorned by her entire town and branded with an A for adultery…
The answer is Hester Prynne!
How about another one? A brave, young, black-haired wizard whose goal is to protect his friends and his world while avenging the murder of his parents….
It’s Harry Potter!
The key to creating memorable characters in fiction is making them memorable—in physical appearance, personality, and in the way they handle themselves in whatever plot you throw them into. These three things are equally important, along with fabricating someone a reader will want to keep on reading about.
Physical appearance is usually the first thing a reader will learn about a character. Harry Potter has his lightning scar and round glasses of course, but many of our favorite characters don’t have extremely unique qualities like this. It’s best to leave part of a character’s appearance up to the reader. Give the main characters more of these physical traits than minor characters so the reader can seem like they know the most important people, well, the most. Include things like hair color and style, facial expressions, and even the type of clothing they wear.
When creating personality for a character, it is better to create a simplified version of a person than someone too complex. You don’t have an entire lifetime to create a character, so in order to create something a reader will remember, choose three big attributes that will pertain to the plot of the story and then follow up with three to five minor traits.
In the evaluation of your character, or how they will act throughout, it is also helpful to create a backstory or a mini-past of each main character. (Hint: this is a great thing to do in your journal if you think of a great character but have no story to put them in.) Name a few major moments in their lives that propelled them to feel or act a certain way. Also, make sure before you write, you create a list of goals each character wants to accomplish throughout. With all these details added to the personality, it will be more helpful with writing the actual story. When each character comes to a point at which they must make a decision, you can use all these aspects to know how they will act.
When you think of books, you think of the characters inside them. A story would be nothing without at least one character, even the narrator. Your goal is to keep people up late at night wondering what their favorite characters will do next. Keep them laughing, keep them crying, and keep them turning those pages.