I'm planning out a "short story" where my main character is a rich girl with a dad who buys her golden cars and stuff and she's an incredibly talented cheerleader and is super smart but I'm having trouble making her less 1 dimensional. I want her to be more than just the rich-bitch and I want to give her flaws but I don't know how to approach it. Any advice?
This is one of my favorite types of characters, so I’m really glad you asked. First and foremost I’ll direct you to my Traits of a Likable Hero post, as it talks about the foundation stones that I’ve observed almost all protagonists have.
For this particular archetype, however, here are my personal rules of thumb:
1. Make sure she cares about others!
Think Charlotte from Princess and the Frog. Nothing screams “rich girl with a heart of gold” more than one who unabashedly plays mama bear to all of her friends, particularly ones less privileged than her.
Let her care about their feelings, treat them to lunches they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, ride her ponies, go for joyrides with her in her expensive cars.
Also, allow her to extend empathy and friendship to people of a lower status than herself: let’s say there’s a new chubby, nerdy, or socially awkward girl who’s being bullied. A person of your character’s status could easily make that character’s life a lot better, so allow her to do so. It will instantaneously make your character more sympathetic and likable.
Just be sure said less-privileged character is an equally three-dimensional and lovable character, otherwise it will come off as a charity case. This will also give your readers a lovely friendship that they can root for.
(On a side note, Rich and Privileged Character who Openly Cares About Her Loved Ones is legit one of my personal favorite tropes of all time.)
2. Show how hard she works.
One of the main obstacles to making wealthy, privileged characters likable is the fact that they can come off as entitled, lazy, and often spoiled. To combat this, show how hard your character works to get where she is.
Cheerleading, for example, is a difficult sport, at least as much so as the football games they cheer on. Pyramids, backflips, synchronization, etc. requires a lot of time and effort to master.
So give your readers a glimpse of your character while she’s practicing! Be sure to describe the sweat, sore muscles, and fatigue that goes into doing what she loves. This is also great, because female-dominated sports such as cheerleading are frequently dismissed as being less chalanging, so it’s a wonderful opportunity to show the reader otherwise.
Similarly, you mentioned your character to be smart. So give the reader a glimpse of her studying! Better yet, show her tutoring other students in her free time, as this will also make her more likable to the reader as well.
Other ways to make her more sympathetic would include her doing volunteer work, for example, contributing to charities, killing vampires, et cetera. The more you show your character earning her status, the more likable she’ll be.
3. Remember your character doesn’t have to be perfect!
Thus far, we’ve established that your character is beautiful, wealthy, accomplished, and kind.
This does not mean, however, that she’s automatically perfect; your character will make mistakes, and these mistakes are integral both to creating a compelling plot, and to making her sympathetic and personable to your readers.
Maybe she makes slip ups based on her status, and then has to learn from them (e.g. assuming poor people are lazy because she heard it from the adults around her), or perhaps they’re completely unrelated. Either way, don’t be afraid to let your character make gaffs, big or small; just so long as she learns from them and emerges a better person because of it.
This not only allows the audience to relate to your character, but may just help them grow as well.
(I had to include at least one Asami gif, as she’s one of my all time favorite Rich Girls With a Heart of Gold and also my gilfriend. Don’t tell Korra.)
Aside from that, treat her like any other character. Her archetype doesn’t necessarily need to impact her quirks, her likes or dislikes, and it would probably be boring if it did (you know those cheesy old sitcoms where all the jokes revolved around the character’s “type?” Yeah, you don’t want that.)
I hope this helps, and happy writing! <3