Characters should feel, breathe, think, be. People should be able to read and not see a device to drag the plot forward, but a person's story. And we should be able to connect with that person's story, be it through emotions, values goals or experiences, or all at once. We should be able to relate to them, as that's the pleasure we find by reading and seeing characters who are like us, think like us, and look like us. We feel present, and by connecting with that character, we want them to succeed in whatever they want to accomplish; we hurt when they're feeling bad and we are happy when they are.
As writers, our job should aim towards creating human beings people can connect with at some level, emotionally, psychologically, or physically.
That character’s goal? They try very hard to succeed; yet, they fail. They feel bad, or don’t care, or get angry; yes, you connect with it because you have a goal as well and you know how it feels to fail. And when a character fails, you get to know them by seeing how they react towards their failure. We see their flaws and their qualities. It’s like we’re meeting a whole new person through the pages of a book or in front of a screen.
Or they don’t have a goal at all, yet. They don’t know where they’re going in life. If you’ve ever felt that way, that you probably have, you will connect. Connection, connection, connection; we should aim towards that. Characters should be their own person, and we should connect with them.
There is an underlying feel of vulnerability in almost every person, and in almost every character, for that matter. There is something good in every “bad” character, and something bad in every “good” character. There are flaws and qualities. There are weaknesses and strengths. When creating a character, we should focus on both equally, as that’s what makes a whole human being, whether readers get to see both sides or not. We should create them and explore them, if we really want to get a grasp on them.
Why is a question that should be always asked by us when writing them. Why do they behave this way, why would they do that thing, why this, why that; why, why, why, and how. How they would speak, how would they react to this, how would they react to that.
Another thing I’d like to address is that a character =/= their job and a character =/= their disabilities or illnesses.
All characters, not only main ones, should have a purpose. And they should have their own stories, they should be their own, and maybe you don’t have or should tell their stories, if they’re not relevant, but they should be there. All your supporting characters must have their own story and a reason for being in your novel, book, or whatever it is you’re writing.
What I mean by all of this is that if you want us to like or dislike whatever characters you’re creating, you should make them humans on their own, they should have a story, and we should be able to feel something towards them. Make us hate them, make us love them, I don’t care. Make us feel something.
If you’re currently not developing your characters, you can do this: find your favorite book or show or anything, and take the characters. Dissect why it is that you like them and why you don’t for those. Really try to find out what you like of them, whether it is a goal, a trait, a flaw.
And if you haven’t seen this video, go do it, because it’s really fascinating.