Writerly Wednesdays: 5 Tips for Writing Memorable Characters

on October 21, 2015

5 Tips to Write a More Compelling and Memorable Character

Are you wondering why your character is not quite standing on her own or driving the plot forward? Have a look at these quick writing tips to see if you can revitalize a weak character and give him or her something worth fighting for!

My favorite books on characters.

My favorite books on characters, and my journal.

  1. Give them a human need that they require above all things to be happy in life. This might be something like having a purpose or being completely free to do as they want. Perhaps it’s acceptance, belonging, or knowing they are respected or honored. Sometimes it is to protect, or serve justice, or know the truth. Rarely is someone’s ultimate need to be loved. But it might be how they are loved—is it without strings to tie them down or without conditions on behavior? Does being loved that way make them feel free or accepted?
  2. Give them a flaw that prevents them from fully being able to achieve that need. For a hero, a strength can also be a flaw and it’s great when both are on display but the hero has to overcome the dark side of themself. For example, curiosity can lead to solutions and it can also lead to trouble. A need to protect can save and inform or be overbearing and suffocating. A need to give can be generous and altruistic and also manifest as weak and gullible.
  3. Give them a quirk that is in some way related or is a physical manifestation of that flaw. This is one of my favorite things to do. In Siren’s Secret, I gave one of my highly intelligent heroine’s a chatty flaw where she used words no one had ever heard of when she got into situations that stressed her out. It helped to separate her from the emotion of the situation, but definitely exacerbated her know-it-all persona.
  4. Give them a name that represents their greatest strength, or if they are a villain, their greatest weakness. In my latest book, Glimmer, one of the villain’s last names is Cashus which means empty and vain, because his fatal flaw is narcissism. The heroine on the other hand, has the name Albrecht, which means brilliant, bright and noble—reflective of both her superhero character and powers. Playing with names is always one of the fun parts for writers.
  5. Last but not least…Give your character something for which they would risk their ultimate need and goal. A hero’s need might be to belong. For the hero in one story, belonging might represent being with her family, but what if saving her family meant she couldn’t be with them?
Understand the value of backstory.

Understand the value of backstory.

There are dozens of things that make a character great, but if you are starting out, try these and see where it takes you. Your character might have more to say, and more at stake than you realize.

Until next time,