This post is just going to be a jumble of stuff.
Your main characters should:
- Have a unique narrating voice (especially if there is more than one POV character)
- Have agency i.e. be actively working against the conflict and not just letting the conflict happen to them
- Be dynamic i.e. more than one trait should define them.
- Develop i.e. either grow or regress over the period of the story
- Be understandable, though not necessarily likable
On coming up with unique characters:
- Observe people. Ask yourself why they do what they do.
- When writing, you’ll find yourself thinking “this is what the reader expects to happen.” Do the opposite.
- Get to know your characters and you’ll find out things about them that naturally make them unique. Put them through scenes. Ask yourself why they’re doing what they’re doing.
- Write them. Write them over and over. Hear them in your head. Search for their voices.
- Do NOT make it so all your characters are likable. None of your characters should be likable 100% of the time because no human being is likable 100% of the time. Even Uncle Iroh was once a Fire Nation General who captured Ba Sing Se.
- Read a book and analyze the main character of it. Write a character that’s the opposite.
- Do character prompts.
- Whatever thing you’re struggling with the most right now, take the purest, rawest form of that struggle and turn it into a character (this is how literally all of my MCs are created).
- Find someone you trust who you can flip out about your OCs with. Hold on to that person. They are important. And talking about your OCs will keep you inspired.
- NEVER STOP GETTING BETTER.