Creating memorable characters
When I started watching Jessica Jones on Netflix I initially turned it off. The story wasn’t captivating enough so I didn’t want to waste my time. But I went back and gave it a second chance and I’m glad I did because two things happened that changed my mind:
Kilgrave was introduced
I fell in love with Jessica’s character
Now the third and final season aired and I’m a little forlorn because I tore through it and now there’s no more Jessica Jones to enjoy. I have to go back and watch the previous seasons or The Defenders to get my fix.
So what makes a character so compelling that I need to binge watch a TV series?
There are a lot of different answers for that and it often depends on the audience or the reader. For me, I like Jessica Jones because she’s not your average vanilla hero looking to save the world. Jessica doesn’t even want to be the hero at first. She’s surly, she drinks, she’s got a chip on her shoulder and she doesn’t care. Those are called “layers” in the development of a character. Her flaws make her more realistic and more interesting to watch.
As writers it is our job to create a compelling story that engages the reader. We craft our world and populate it with characters that must resonate in some way with our target audience. If we fail in making those characters interesting the reader won’t want to follow them on the journey that lies ahead. Then they won’t get to see the layers get pulled back to reveal what lies beneath.
Our characters must grow in some way.
For Jessica, she winds up embracing heroism, finally allows herself to smile, and starts to let people in. The Jessica Jones in season 3 is a different layer than who she was in season 1. But it has to be that way otherwise things grow stale.
My lead character in "Lucky Sevens," Luca Luchazi, also stars out as an alcoholic with a mouth and a chip on his shoulder. It’s only when faced with the impending danger of someone he cares about does he start to embrace the fact that he must do something about it.
I heard a great quote once from Xena: Warrior Princess of all places:
“We are both born of good and evil; the side we choose to nurture defines who we are.”
I always approach my character development with this in mind because people are not all good or all evil. They are shades of gray with flaws and subtle nuances that makes everyone unique.
So when you’re creating your characters keep these tips in mind:
Don’t make them too perfect it’s boring to read.
Give them an internal struggle they need to overcome.
When writing dialogue think about how people really speak. Sound it if you need to.
Antagonists need layers too. The best villains have a sense of purpose.
All characters, even incidental ones, should grow some way during the story.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind. What other tips on creating memorable characters have you heard or used in your writing?