Often, people will write their story while not fully knowing their characters. These people they create, as odd and strange as it sounds, will be a complete and utter stranger to them. You might ask, “How is that possible, aren’t I the one who created them? Shouldn’t I know them better than anyone?” and the answer is yes, you created them and yes, you should know them better than anyone else. The fact of the matter is, though, that until you sit down and craft your character and have them go through all the trials and errors that you set out within the novel, they’re just an idea. They’re a stranger. So, the proper question is:
How do you get to know your characters?
Foremost, before you do anything else, you need to distinguish the absolute basic part of your character. Are they round or are they flat? Now, this is just a nifty way of saying whether your character has any depth or if they’re just a pretty face off to the side.
A character with depth could range from your principal character to their sibling or best friend, while a filler character is that waitress or neighbor you have your main character speak to maybe once or twice throughout the entire book. They’re someone your reader will forget about within a matter of sentences.
Once you distinguish this basic part, that’s where things get fun and interesting because now you take control and mold your character(s) into who they are, who they’re becoming, and who they will ultimately be by the end of the novel or series. We can do this through the course of a single book or that of a series. All of those sadistic and heart-wrenching challenges you’ve thought up? Those are the things that will make your round character grow. They’re what will give your character depth.
Your round characters are the driving force within your novel. They’re who your readers will relate to and identify with the most. Keep in mind, this doesn’t have to be your main character. Your MC might not even be the person who has the most growth overall in your text, and that’s okay because all you’re trying to do right now is get them there. You want your readers to either fall in love with your characters or loathe your characters. You want them to feel something for them because that’s how you’ll hook them and keep them along for the ride. They’ll want to know if their favorite character gets the guy/girl or if the character they hate the most loses/wins.
A fantastic example of a round character and the growth they experience would be Harry in the Harry Potter series. Harry starts as a naïve child who knows nothing about magic or wizards, and by the last book he ultimately defeats his number one enemy and has a large understanding of the wizarding world. J. K. Rowling captures her reading audience by having her main character develop an enormous growth over the entire course of those novels, from learning and growing his relationships to his own overall strength and ability to overcome challenges.
It’s from here we move into your flat characters and these will be the easiest to craft. They’re the characters you don’t put an extensive amount of thought into as they don’t experience a large amount of growth. They’re static and simple. That waitress who takes your main character’s order? She’s flat. The next-door neighbor your detective interviews who has no connection to the main storyline at all outside of giving useless information? They’re flat, they probably won’t ever appear again unless you create them to have useful information in which case, they’ll most likely end up turning into another round character.
When crafting your story, knowing your character(s) is a monumental part in being able to capture your reader’s attention. These are the people they’ll meet and experience the challenges and journey through. Your reader, in other words, lives vicariously through your characters, so creating them is just as important, if not more so, than the overall plot line because this is who they meet first. This is who tells them the events of the story and leads them further along. Without your characters, your story would never progress so, let me ask you,
Do you know your characters?
Thanks for reading, and until next time.
All the best.