Anyone or anything can be a character of your book – starting from a cockroach and finishing with ancient gods. However, readers grow accustomed mainly to those characters who remind them of themselves; those who have such human features as habits, character, virtues and flaws, memories, plans for the future, dreams, etc. If all that your heroine has is velvety skin and great forms, it won’t be interesting for the majority of people to read. In this post, we’ll try to cast some light on how to create a character for your book and will offer you a character sheet template that you can use for every piece you write. Let’s go!
How many characters should you create?
So, how many characters should a novel have? Well, the answer is – as many as you can keep. In War and peace by Leo Tolstoy, there are more than two hundred characters with names. In Grimm brothers’ Hansel and Gretel, there are only five. See more interesting facts about famous authors in this article.
It is considered that three is the optimal number of main characters for a novel. If there is one character, there can be no conflict situations and it would difficult for a reader to empathize. Two characters are better, but we need another one who would bring chaos to the relationships. So, three characters is the best option.
Even an intellectual novel shouldn’t be overcrowded. If readers are becoming confused with the characters and forget who is who – it is a bad sign.
How to make characters interesting and memorable
Creating characters for a novel, think of how your readers will feel reading about them. If readers accept your characters with all the heart, they feel:
- Liking – approval and sympathy;
- Empathy – readers can easily imagine themselves in your character’s place.
To make that happen, you character should be charming. Mr. Darcy, Dorian Gray, Yoda – all of these and other memorable characters are united by these features:
- Authenticity – they are all described in a vivid way so that readers can clearly imagine them;
- Uniqueness – the author manages to create a character like no one else;
- Readers want to copy these characters’ habits, words and style.
The characters cope with their problems in such a manner that you cannot but admire them. When readers “encounter” well created character, they feel smarter, stronger and more charming themselves.
Many people think that a perfect character is a simple person. That is why publishers get numerous unedited novels with faceless female characters looking for love and boring male characters with a middle age crisis. There are even more characters with hard drinking and psychosis. The thing is that the authors of such books don’t create literature – they do sort of self-treatment describing themselves and their problems.
Developing a character, imagine that you will travel on a train with him or her. Would you prefer going with a witty bright person or moody neurotic? If we want our readers to have great time reading, we have to create interesting characters for them.
Archetypes of literary characters
If you cannot think of how to build character, maybe these archetypes will inspire you:
- Boss: controls everything and demands respect and submission. The end justifies the means for him. For example: Don Corleone from God Father.
- Bad guy: this one is smart and charming. There was some big incident in his past that seriously influenced him. Society blames our bad guy for absolutely everything, but he never justifies himself and never lets anyone in his heart. He rebels a lot, but it is just self-defense. Deep down he is kind and sentimental. For example here can be Sherlock Holmes.
- Best friend: strong, peaceful and always ready to help. Such a character is often torn up between his duties and personal desires. Example: Christopher Robin from Winnie-the-Pooh.
- The charming one: he is creative, witty and always manipulates people. He can find a key to anyone’s heart and knows how to please the audience. Example: Daniel from Bridget Jones’s Diary.
- Lost soul: this character lives in his past mistakes. He is vulnerable and shrewd; he can see people through. He is also lonely and unsociable and cannot fit anywhere. Example: Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley.
- Professor: he is all about his work. He is a true professional, but quite weird, as well. His credo is logic and knowledge. His passion is study and case analysis using his outstanding intelligence. Example: John Nash from A Beautiful Mind.
- Adventurer: this one cannot sit in one place too long. He is fearless, creative and selfish. He is always extremely curious, hates everything about theory and constantly seeks the truth even if it is dangerous. He inspires people and easily deals with numerous obstacles. Example: Indiana Jones, James Bond.
- Warrior: he is noble, tough and principled. He always seeks justice. Money and power are secondary to him. He is honest and persistent. He takes vengeance on his enemies or saves beautiful ladies. Example: Edmond Dantès from The Count of Monte Cristo.
- Boss: she always seeks respect and attention. She is harsh, go-ahead and arrogant. Example: Miranda Priestly from Devil Wears Prada.
- Temptress: she is smart and beautiful and she knows how to get men’s attention. She is cynical and manipulative and uses her beauty as a weapon. She always plays a role. Example: Lolita from the novel of the same name.
- Brave girl: this one is sincere, kind and open. She is witty and reliable. With all that, she is also cynical and doesn’t appreciate herself. Everyone loves her as she can always help in difficult situations.
- Reckless: this lady is eccentric and impulsive. She is prone to exaggeration, easily distracted and believes everything she is told. There is no discipline with her and she doesn’t care about traditions. She wants to try everything and often makes emotional decisions. Example: Alice in wonderland.
- Warm and fuzzy: naïve, gentle and pure soul. She is easily convinced and easily hurt. She is passive and cannot do without her knight in shining armour. She often falls in love with the wrong guy. Example: Cinderella.
- Librarian: serious, persistent and reliable. She is quite unsocial and always tries to hide her feelings. She’s a perfectionist who doesn’t consider herself pretty. She lives in her own world and loves studying. Often such character is very passionate inside. Example: Mrs. Marple.
- Activist: fights for just cause. She is brave, determined, stubborn and easily provoked. She is carried away with her things and often forgets about her family and friends; she won’t go on a date it there is a protest march this day. Her goal is always more important than personal matters.
An archetype can be pure or mixed with some dominant. Sometimes a character’s archetype is changed by the end of the book.
You can create your character’s worksheet in any way you like. You can write it a plain description, create a plan or use special programs for that. It is all about you and what works best for your novel.
Well, we hope that we helped you to learn at least something on how to make a character for your book. Remember that you are not actually restricted by anything. Use your imagination, create characters that will be close to you and everything will be great.
Alyce is an inspired blogger, private tutor and educational consultant who is passionate about everything related to writing. Now she has found herself as a private consultant/educator, providing seminars and workshops to teachers of English. The focus of her presentations is how to motivate students to enjoy writing and to help them in becoming creative and proficient writers both for their pleasure and coursework assignments. She loves to share her experience in these fields. Stay tuned to get more actionable tips about writing!