First of all, I would like to start off by saying that I am no expert on the matter and this is not so much a guide to creating characters, as it is my own personal experiences.
A little bit of backstory on me, I never actually aspired to be an author. I was more into gaming my entire life, and I joined a text based role playing group centered around some of my favorite games. From there, I learned everything you SHOULDN’T do with a character, as well as things people really respond well to. When you filter through dozens of characters a day, and read their stories, and actively participate with them, you learn who is universally hated and who is loved. That being said…
Never make your characters invincible. They need to be roughed up a bit. This is what is known as “God Modding” in the community and it is hated more than anything else. No one is interested in characters that can pull abilities out of thin air to get past an obstacle. We look at that as cheating, and so do readers. Instead, use what you have at your disposal in your character’s history. Make it fun, unexpected and exciting to read.
What I like to do is make a character sheet for all of my characters. It’s a basic bio full of their stats and history. So, if I need to know how tall my guy/girl is, I have it. If I need to know what special abilities he/she possesses, I have it. It details their personal story for me, so that if I ever need to get out of a situation I put myself in, I can refer back to the character sheet to decide how I could get it done, based on the character.
People want characters that are down to Earth and relatable. Think back to any TV show, book, or movie you really enjoyed. Chances are, the reason you enjoyed it was due to a character or two you really liked. The reason you like them is because you can relate. You see aspects of yourself in them. How many times when you were little did you say “I’m Leonardo!” or “I’m Optimus Prime,” Chances are a ton. You liked those characters and emulated them because you liked their personalities. Even as an adult I am sure people have said, “This character soooo reminds me of you,” and you liked them based on that alone without even seeing the character. That is what makes a character well rounded. All of your favorite characters are relatable and have flaws, because in real life, we all do too.
Another thing to watch out for is making your character too “edgy.” Which is defined as “Taking coolness to its extreme and generally beyond the realm of actual possibility, while at the same time seemingly unaware of how ridiculous it is.” Your character of course can be cool and funny, but when it imposes on reality and becomes farfetched, again, you have a problem with your reader finding them relatable. For instance, if your guy speaks in cool one liners, dresses in all black all the time, has armor on and carries around a samurai sword in Manhattan, chances are he is a bit too edgy.
When a reader reads your story, the most important thing you can do for them, is make it as easy as possible for them to put themselves in your character’s shoes. Otherwise, they lose interest. Making a character relatable will actually keep a reader reading in a genre they wouldn’t normally seek out, just BECUASE they can relate to it. Let’s face it, we all want to be the star of our own movies in our mind.
Now, I am not above any of this. When I started out roleplaying, I had the edgiest characters around, because it’s a game and you typically go out of your way to win games. When people stopped wanting to play with me, I sought out answers as to why. That’s when I learned it was more about a mutual story than winning, and when you make a great, relatable story, everyone wins.
So, in closing, make your characters relatable, down to Earth, flawed and realistic. If you follow those four things, it won’t matter what genre you write in, because people will keep coming back for more.
It was only recently that Kyle Perkins discovered his love of putting his imaginative daydreams in writing for others to enjoy. He founded and managed some of the largest text-based roleplaying groups on Facebook, which sparked his passion for storytelling and helped him sharpen his skills as an author. Since the January 2016 release of his debut dystopian novel, Reddened Wasteland, Kyle has published three other works with plans to release several more in the upcoming months, including the second installment of the Reddened Wasteland series. He’s a dog person, an Aquarius, and he lives in Florida, though he’ll tell you he lives on the internet.