Note: the following post is in honour of Elana Johnson’s Great Blogging Experiment
How do you write compelling characters when you’re a complete newbie? My answer: study characters from other works. I am going to use examples from two of my favourite series, Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl.
The best characters are the ones who show the following traits:
They are not afraid to take risks
Towards the end of Order of the Phoenix, Harry takes one foolhardy decision after another to do whatever it takes to rescue Sirius. Every step is fraught with uncertainty and risks, but he plunges in anyway. This is part of the axiom that says a character should not be passive but a person who takes hold of things and makes decisions and acts on them.
They have a higher IQ or EQ than the average person
I absolutely love the bit in the Half-Blood Prince where Harry realizes that Draco has replaced his father as a Death-Eater. This is not completely an intelligence thing, but also instinct and intuition and educated guessing. That was a brilliant piece of deduction on his part, and his conviction was amazing given that the every-brainy Hermione pooh-poohed his theory.
They can summon up the sympathy quotient
Harry misses his parents. He’s not moping about them all the time, but he clearly wishes they stuck around to help him face Lord Voldemort. Similarly for Artemis. In the first scene of the first book, he’s all tough as he sets out to acquire The Book, but later when he reaches home we see how his heart sinks when he meets his mother, who believes his father is alive despite reports that he has died.
They have a flaw
Or maybe multiple flaws, actually. Artemis is the perfect example of this, as he is an anti-hero rather than the traditional heroic hero. His intelligence far exceeds that of the average 12-year-old, but so does his greed.
How do we conjure up such fantastic characters in our imagination?
Once you come up with even a basic character, to bring them to life, you can:
- Brew a cup of the steaming and sit down to interview your character about their life and views. Just keeping throwing questions out and writing down what the voice in your head says.
- Fill out bios for them. Here’s one, and one for sci-fi.
- Ask random questions of your characters. Hear what they have to say. Check out this list of 365 questions to ask your characters.
That’s all I have. What other tips can you think of for creating compelling characters?