Have you ever walked out of a theater, or reached the end of a book, and thought about it long after you’ve finished?
That’s likely because of well-developed characters.
Have you ever wondered what helps make a character feel 3D? If so, read on.
Creating engaging characters is one of the key ingredients of a good story.
If your readers love the character, they’re more likely to finish the book even if everything else is lacking. That’s the kind of power a strong MC brings to the table.
In this post, I’m going to use Katniss Everdeen as an example of a well-rounded character. Let’s see why she was able to carry a story through three books, and how you can do it too.
1. She made mistakes
Katniss made a good deal of mistakes in The Hunger Games, from lying to Peeta, to accidentally starting a revolution.
Your protagonist needs to mess up, get dirty, even be arrogant sometimes. Doing so opens up a channel of understanding between reader and story. We all know what it’s like to make mistakes or be embarrassed.
Sometimes, an entire plot will reveal itself because of a mistake. Those variables can add valuable layers to a character’s journey.
2. She showed uncertainty
Suzanne Collins made it clear that Katniss, though confident in her abilities as a provider and fighter, lacked the same confidence in her relationships and emotions.
By showing the uncertainty Katniss felt regarding life outside of survival, provided a sense of relatability that is invaluable for a story’s success. Even if a character is vastly different from yourself, the recognition of mirrored emotion can make them feel closer.
3. She was surrounded by diverse responses
Something that stands out about the characters Collins created is how she crafted each one’s emotions.
Katniss had intense responses to certain events and displayed them in a way Peeta would never do. Each person in the story was unique in how they handled their emotions. That aspect makes all the difference in creating an in-depth world.
If your characters are all echoing each other’s ideas and opinions and showing the same responses to the events of the story, you may be dealing with a cast of impersonators.
Each significant player needs a distinct voice to speak with, just like in real life. It opens up a new opportunity for story conflict.
4. She had believable talents
Katniss was believable in her position because Collins made it so by giving her the motive to learn her skills. We accepted the fact that this sixteen-year-old girl was an incredible archer because we knew she had to become one to keep her family alive.
If you’re going to give your character all sorts of cool talents and skills, that’s fine. Make sure they have a purpose. Give them a reason for acquiring them.
5. She was in constant development
Katniss grew continuously throughout the entire trilogy. She started as a hunter providing for her family and left as a seasoned warrior who liberated an entire nation.
There’s a lot of stages in between those titles. To get from A to B, you need an arc. Your MC needs a transformational experience in some capacity. It could be simple, or complex like Katniss’s. Whatever it looks like, your character needs to reach the end of their story changed in some way, for better or for worse.
This was why I willingly followed Katniss through three books; she was evolving as we went. It kept it interesting. It kept me guessing.
That’s the type of drive your protagonist needs.
Creating diverse and layered characters that are capable of carrying a story is an art in and of itself, and I have a lot to learn in this area.
These are the observations I’ve made in the work of others, and the tactics I’ve used in my projects as of now.
Remember to let your characters mess up!