You’ve read flat characters. Seen them on TV. You know who they are. They don’t act consistently. They don’t have any established personality. They do whatever is most convenient for the story line. They adhere closely to stereotypes.
Don’t do that. As a writer, you already possess a unique talent for observation and creation. Use those talents to make your characters vivid, complex beings that readers feel like they could have a conversation with, not flat cardboard props.
Having a little trouble fleshing out your characters? Here’s four methods to help you out.
Create a character profile
Write out their backstory, their flaws and assets, their myers-briggs personality type. Write out the way they talk, their looks, their beliefs. Get complex and deep until you feel like you know them really well.
Cast their role
Go online and look up actors and actresses. Who would play your character in the movie? When you have the perfect person chosen, grab a picture of them and paste it into your notes. Look back at it as your character whenever you need to ask “What’s your motivation?” For whatever reason, having a visual can really help make them more real.
Let them ripple out from their most important scene
You have a scene in mind. You know what your character needs to do in it. Sometimes authors will get to that scene with a fully developed character only to find their character doesn’t want to do their job. So they force them through the scene and the result is stiff at best and infuriatingly inconsistent with their characters personality and motivations at worst.
Starting with that scene, even if you plan to rewrite it later when you get to it in the story allows you to establish the roots of your character as you want them. You get a feel for them here and as you write the rest, that sense remains through out the story.
Let the character reveal themselves
Don’t go in with any concrete sense of who the character is. Is she funny? Is he grouchy? Gay or straight? Aggressive or meek? Not quite sure, lets ask them.
Through dialogue and action the character’s personality comes through strong and, more important, unique to them. I wouldn’t suggest this method when you are just starting out. It is too easy to get inconsistent and/or be swayed by other writer’s characters, but if you have your own strong voice established, give it a whirl. I have discovered quiet a few very interesting characters trying this method.