Creating Relatable Characters
It can be difficult to create relatable characters. While your character doesn’t have to be adored by everyone, it’s important for your audience to feel some sort of connection and bond to them. Your character doesn’t have to be the best character ever, but they do need to have an overall likable personality.
Creating relatable characters can be as easy as following the outlined tips below.
Give them a name
It doesn’t have to be a fancy name. You don’t have to spend hours agonizing on whether Paul or Peter is better for your main character. Your main character needs a name; something for the audience to identify them by.
Would we relate to Katniss as much if she didn't have the name Katniss, but was called the girl with the black hair? Giving your characters a name is the first step to helping them develop an identity.
Have them fail
All characters should fail at some point. It’s important that your characters fail. People can relate to characters who fail, and it builds up tension in your novel. People like to root for the underdog. Failure doesn’t need to be the arch in your story, but it does need to be believable and relatable.
Here’s a list of ways your characters can fail:
Their parents disown them for a decision they made
They flunk out of college and/or get expelled
They get fired from their job
The list can go on and on. Failure builds character. Ultimately, we all fail, and so should your character. Characters that fail are likable characters.
Don’t Be Afraid To “Kill Your Darlings”
One of the most popular writer’s quotes, and the quote I perhaps live by the most, is kill your darlings. While you don’t actually have to kill your main character, it does mean you should take chances with them. Get messy. Make mistakes. Give your character a challenge; a difficult time. Make sure that your main character’s life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
The best part is you don’t have to actually murder anyone to make someone suffer. A nice little bit of heartbreak, perhaps a cup of sorrow from a loved one passing from old age, or their favorite car being ruined can be just the final straw you need. Don’t be afraid to make your character vulnerable. A character that is vulnerable is one that is relatable to someone. Here's some simple things your character can suffer through:
Getting fired or demoted from a job
Getting expelled from school
Dropping a class, failing a major exam
Refusing to follow in his family's footsteps and being disowned
Getting arrested for a crime he didn't commit
Having her lover break up with her
Have Them Make Bad Choices
Don’t be afraid to have your characters make bad choices. They should make bad choices, and make mistakes. Unfortunately, nobody is sheltered from bad experiences in life, so why should our characters be? Many of us make mistakes, and make bad choices, and so should our characters.
Break up with someone he's deeply in love with for a fling
Procrastinate on a final exam
Cheating on an exam and getting caught
Spending hours a day on social media, avoiding their work
Dropping out of school and not telling their parents
Don't protect them from everything
One of the struggles many writers face, especially in the beginning, is a failure to make your characters suffer consequences. It's natural to want to protect your characters. Unfortunately, characters protected by everything unfortunately rarely develop to be the strong characters we need them to be. In line with don’t kill your darling, not protecting your character will make them much more relatable to others who are reading.
Give Them Have A Personal Motivation
Whatever goal your character wants, make them have a deeply personal motivation for it. When your main character has a deeply personal goal, characters can relate to them. If you’ve ever read a novel where you were deeply influenced by something that drives the main character, you’ll know what this means. Here are some personal motivational ideas for a main character:
He’s determined to prove someone wrong.
He fears for his life and wants to survive.
She is running from someone in her past
They want to survive the Big Bad in your story
They are trying to find a family member after a disastrous storm
Give Your Characters Morals
Make sure that your characters have morals! Even villains can have morals. Perhaps the main assassin in your story won’t kill children or hurt cute puppies. While everyone sees the world differently, we all have a basic set of ground rules that we play by. Making sure your character has morals is a very important quality.
It’s easy to write characters. It’s more difficult to write strong, relatable characters. Spending just a little bit of extra time can make your characters more likable, which in turn makes a better novel.