You first need the basics: male or female, age (at least generally speaking like mid-twenties, middle-aged etc.), what’s the character’s job and basic physical appearance as well as personality. Once you get the basics then the fun part begins. Now you get to flesh out your characters. Make sure you give your character a problem; whether it is an emotional, physical or spiritual one.
What’s in a name…Naming your characters is very important as well. One of the minor characters in my book, Mr. Shipley’s Governess is the butler and I thought about naming him James; however, that’s stereotypical of a butler. I ended up calling him Nigel—British sounding but less like a butler. The heroine, Sophie, her name did not have any meaning to me. The hero, however, I called Sebastian Shipley. I was going for a name fit for a dashing, yet modern gentleman. It’s your decision on whether or not you utilize stereotypes for characters, but that won’t be very interesting to your readers and it’s especially not a good idea for your main characters. You can use some stereotypes, but the point of writing memorable characters is for you to step outside of the box and create interesting, believable, three-dimensional people.
What is your character’s personality like? Is he a strong type A person? Is she more laidback and impulsive? Don’t just say Sophie is laidback; show that she is. Show her actions that she is more relaxed and not easily bothered by change. Set her up in scenes where you can show her impetuous side and that she might drag the more reserved, Sebastian, out on an impromptu date. What are the mannerisms and habits your character will exhibit? You need to show these to your readers.
Writing in deep POV is extremely helpful in achieving success in your writing. Jump into the mind of your character and bring your reader with you. As you write, it’s very effective to keep to one character’s POV per scene. If you head hop to another character, just make sure that it doesn’t jar the readers out of the scene into a tailspin of confusion. You want every aspect of your story to flow together seamlessly so that your readers are fully engaged and not confused, wanting to put the book down and not finish reading.
Do you know what motivates your characters? If you don’t know, you’ll never be able to get that across to your readers in a believable fashion. Is your character motivated by greed or love or bitterness? There are so many different aspects of character motivation that you can utilize. If he or she is motivated by greed, what made this character live like that? Share that catalyst and it will be another great factor to draw the readers in to the story.
One of the best ways to know if your characters are believable is to ask yourself: do you remember your characters? Do you want to read more stories about them? The likelihood that you care about your characters will mean that others will too. Always be open to learn new techniques for character development and don’t shy away from editors. Meticulous editing will assist you, if you’re willing to take constructive criticism, in writing the best novel. For Mr. Shipley’s Governess, I had two awesome editors through a two year period of writing / editing, who helped me see critical aspects of proper writing techniques that I was missing. Sure, I could have ignored their assistance, but I wanted my writing to be my best.
How do you flesh out believable three-dimensional characters? Are there any memorable characters from books you’ve read that have stayed with you long after reading the story?