Elana Johnson asked for volunteers to help her with The Great Blogging Experiment today, which is having several bloggers blog about the same topic on the same day, and then seeing how very different and valuable the different blogs can be. I am experimentee #114.
How to Write Compelling Characters, a la Jaime at Bookmom Musings.
1. Riddle them with weaknesses, flaws, and a behavior tendencies that seem to get them in trouble. As human beings, we all have weaknesses, flaws, and tendencies that we wish we could erase the minute we do them. As readers we can empathize with that because it's part of life. This will make your characters more real to your readers. And more real to you (which is important as you write them).
2. Give them at least one character strength that you admire. Maybe it's persistence. Maybe it's kindness to others who might not deserve it. Maybe it's the ability to laugh at oneself.
3. Make sure you have some plot problems that stem directly from your characters' weaknesses and strengths. Stick with me here. Sometimes our strengths get us into trouble too, and the true test of someone's mettle is if they stick to that strength even when it hurts.
4. Make your characters grow and change as a result of events in your story. Even better if it is by overcoming a particular weakness that a character gets the girl/beats the bad guy/saves the world/saves the whales/becomes the popular kid/etc.
5. Make your characters sparkle in the sun. (Kidding, kidding.)
All of this is easier said than done, but it can be done. I also suggest looking at some of your favorite characters in books with an eye towards why you found them compelling. I bet you'll see some of the things I mentioned. (Except the sparkling.)