Each writer employs a number of tools to work his or her craft. Through trial and error, every writer finds what works best for them, especially with character development.
One helpful tool for creating a compelling character is to create an outline to discover that character. This can be on paper or mental, but at the end of the day, a character will be more easily accessible and attractive to the reader if he or she has these five attributes:
Goals or Motivations
Every character should have something they are looking for, especially your main character. This desire to achieve or acquire something drives the story forward and is important to keep the character connected.
Even if the character’s goals are not immediately, or ever, shown to the reader, it is still important for the writer to know what makes that character wake up in the morning and move through their story.
Problems or Hiccups
Nothing worth having is easy to get. Your character needs a problem – some reason that stops them from getting where they need to go or achieving their goals too easily. When or how to reveal this problem is up to the writer, but knowing what’s ahead lets the writer know how to get their character to the final page.
If the story consists of a character going from point A to point B without trial or tribulation, then the story is flat and will not keep the reader’s attention.
To write about a character with no quirks is to write about a well-designed robot that does its job efficiently. Think about compelling characters in your own life – why are you drawn to them? What makes you think about them?
Compelling people have things about them that are not seen every day. People without quirks are predictably consistent and character without quirks are the same. Readers want a character who sticks out in the story and in their mind. Quirks allow writers to create depth in a character and bring that character to life on the page.
Growth or Decay
People change, for better or worse. Compelling characters do the same as they strive to achieve their goals. To get a reader to live beside a character, have the reader watch that character develop as a result of their actions.
Sometimes that character doesn’t grow, but drops. There’s something poignant about watching a boxer lose. But a character will be more interesting to the reader if they go one or both directions. If the character has learned nothing by the final page, there was little reason to have the preceding events occur.
Arguably, the most important question for any writer to ask is: Why?
Why is this character this way? Why does he or she want what they want? Why is he trying to achieve his or her goals this way?
Give your character a philosophy. The world is full of people with their own sets of beliefs, opinions, and personalities. The character should have a set of their own. The deeper their philosophy, the less they’re words on a page and more like someone who exists in flesh and blood.
As mentioned above, these are good points to consider when trying to create a character to throw on the page. Without some reason to want to get to know a character, the reader will not be invested in what happens to that character on the last page. Good luck, and never stop writing.