1. The golden rule – rounded, three dimensional people. Good characters are not all good. Bad characters are not all bad. 100% angelic heroes or heroines are not believable, and also once you manage to elicit sympathy for your predator/anti-hero/abuser in your novel, you have the reader hooked, their sympathies torn and their engagement guaranteed. As people, we are a mass of conflicts, preferences and experience. I always think that REALLY listening to people talk around you is a massive (and free) lesson – often we say the exact opposite of what we’re thinking, for instance. Your character might do that, and as a writer it’s your job to show why. Originality is key. Avoid cliche. Not all mothers are lovely, not all teenagers are rebels, not all criminals are uneducated, etc
  2. Ask yourself, ‘what one thing would my character erase from their life if they could, and what one thing would they defend to the death?’ Another useful question is ‘Do they like themselves, or hate themselves – and why?’
  3. Don’t spill the beans on them all at once. Tease out their idiosyncrasies, weaknesses, strengths. Because we know our characters and what they’re going to do, it’s tempting to rush forward with a complete life history. But just drop those breadcrumbs carefully and slowly as you lead your reader through. Particularly, don’t push your research. I once read a first chapter where a male protagonist gave the memorial lecture on Iron Age hillforts while ‘just chatting’ to his mate in the pub. (Of course, this might work if your character is a complete egotistical bore, but you’re risking your reader being bored too unless you handle it carefully).
  4. Know everything about them – their history, their looks, their preferences – and let them act accordingly. Be subtle. And keep up to date. As a tutor, I have seen synopses where women sit at home knitting and men are out there fighting the bad guys. or the women are luscious beautiful scientists/lawyers/police officers who forget their intelligence and experiences and fall in love the minute the hero walks through the door. Remember, society moves on and changes all the time whether we might agree with trends or not. And I’m harping on the female angle not only because of #MeToo developments and all that might follow from it, but because of the crucial fact that most book buyers are women. When you write a female character in particular, think of that woman reading the blurb on the back of your paperback. Is she impressed and intrigued?
  5. Get your facts straight.Research is key if you want your character to have a particular profession, for instance. And if you’re writing an historical character, make absolutely sure you have your dates, customs, dress, speech etc spot on. My Rutherford Park series was set in the First World War. With a relative who died on !st July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme, I felt that the very least that I owed him was to get the facts right.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            #writingcharactersinyournovel #howtowriteeffectivecharacters #writingyournovel #creatingsuccessfulcharactersinyournovel #5rulesforgoodcharactersinnovels