Making Your Characters Believable and Engaging
The characters of your novel are what drives the plot. Well developed characters are essential to a successful book. But how do you do create believable and engaging characters?
Give Your Character a Motive for Everything They do
Every action of your character needs to have a reason behind it. Your hero/heroine doesn't just wake up one day and decide they are going to save the world. Something inspires them to do so. Whether their motive is becoming rich or overthrowing a corrupt government, your character should have something that drives them. And don't only give them one main motive. When your character eats, it's because your character is hungry, not because they are taking revenge on the villain who killed their family. Likewise, not every decision they make is for that single driving reason. Allow other conditions to push your character in certain directions. Do you want your character to investigate a building? Give them a shady character to follow to that building.
Develop a Type of Dialogue Associated with Each Character
The significant amount of your character's personality originates from what they say. If you are writing your novel well, then as your readers become familiar with your characters, the audience should be able to differentiate between your main characters without dialogue tags. Maybe one character speaks formally, never cursing and never using contractions. On the other hand, one of your characters might slur their words and curse explicitly. Then again, what makes your character's dialogue unique might be more subtle. Perhaps they say like, like, a lot or use certain phrases frequently. Whatever it is that makes their dialogue unique, just make sure you remain consistent. Don't give them an accent on one page and then neglect to write it that way on the next page.
Give Your Characters Habits and Hobbies
Yes, maybe your character is busy plotting to overthrow an evil tyrant, but that doesn't mean they don't knit in their free time. Everyone has habits and hobbies. Make your character whistle when there's an awkward silence or play with the hem of their shirt when they're uncomfortable. Write in a way that when something happens, the audience can anticipate how the character might react. Oh, that guy is singing? The character is definitely going to break out some sick dance moves. Did that person just mention how short she is? He's about to receive a fist to the face. You get the point. And in those moments where there seems to be a lull in your plot, let your audience discover some quirks or hobbies of your character. Maybe your character is waiting for the arrival of the enemy force. How does he/she spend the time? Do they draw a picture, write a letter, whittle a piece of wood, go to a bar or a brothel? The readers don't know. Let them know.
Make Your Character Change in Some Way
Every protagonist needs to change by the end of your novel. Now, this doesn't mean you can simply cut off their leg and say, "At the beginning of this book, my main character had all of their limbs, and now, they're an amputee." That's not what I mean. Something within the novel causes your protagonist to change a viewpoint or a characteristic that was important to them. Maybe they realize that they had been unintentionally working to the benefit of the enemy, and now, they are forced to rethink everything that they had thought to be true. It can be anything. It just has to be something fundamental about that character that is warped or replaced. Without this change within the character, you are left with a flat, dimensionless character who has failed to benefit or learn from their experiences within the book.