CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT || 5 tips on creating compelling, captivating characters

If you have characters in your novel, you need to make them compelling and captivating. You want your reader to connect with your character, to laugh when they laugh, to cry when they cry. Here are 5 tips to create characters that your reader will remember!

I mention a wide variety of books in this post – most of them MG or YA in nature. All the links are in the show notes – if you haven’t read any of them, you should and then you can tell me all about what you liked – and didn’t like – in the comments!

Check this information out on my YouTube channel here!

character week 1

Passion

Writer’s Digest calls it a driving need, desire, ambition or goal. Whatever it is, your character needs to have it! What do your characters want more than ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD. Once you know that you can place them in your plot.

What does Harry want more than anything else in the first book?

  • Harry wants to leave the Dursley’s and then when he gets that wish, he wants to live up to the name the whole wizarding world knows: his own.

What does Celaena  want in Throne of Glass?

  • To be free and in order to do that she must win the competition.

What does Ella want in Ella Enchanted?

  • To be free of her curse.

These characters are all desperate to reach their goal – What goal is your character desperate to reach?

Make them good…. And bad…

Your character needs to be exceptional at something – and also to make mistakes. Think about Katniss and Peeta from the Hunger Games. Katniss was great with physical tasks but not so great with social / emotional tasks. Peeta was great with social tasks but he couldn’t hunt / forage to save his life – literally. Katniss did great while in the games but couldn’t look ahead enough to be careful of the capital once she got back to District 12 and Peeta got pissy when he realized that the chemistry he had with Katniss was feigned to keep her alive. These characters look great from one point of view but they look terrible from another. Does your character do everything “right” or do they make mistakes – sometimes big ones – like these characters.

Multidimensional antagonist

In this same vein, is your antagonist multi-dimensional? Are they really good at something, and suck at something else? Do they make the “right” or “good” decision that your protagonist refuses to make.

Fear

Fear is such a powerful motivator. As I read through the Septimus Heap series, I love that fact that Septimus is terrified of heights. And then he becomes a dragon master and has to overcome that fear. I remember the first time I read the book thinking that I REALLY identified with Septimus as that fear made so much sense!

What is your character afraid of? What makes them shiver in the dark? Even the bravest, most noble, wonderful character ever should be deathly afraid of something. Extra points if what they are afraid of is something they HAVE TO overcome to reach their goal!

Growth

Finally, your characters need to grow. The character who faces victory at the climax is not the same character who we met at the beginning of the book. Something needs to happens to them along the way – they grow (not just find clues to a mystery!) and they end up with the skills, the knowledge and the abilities to reach their dream goal. 

I did a ton of research to prepare for this video and I’ve listed the two main sites that I used in the show notes if you would like to further your own research.


That’s the 5 tips I have for building compelling, engaging, captivating characters. What tips do you have? Please leave your ideas in the comments.


Books referred to:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  • Septimus Heap, Book Two: Flyte by Angie Sage
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