I just spent two hours writing a post on what makes characters compelling. And somehow, Blogger deleted it. And I want to cry. Which isn't very compelling.
So, let me try to summarize:
Allow your characters to make mistakes. Perfect people are boring and frankly, most of us want to kill them when we meet them in real life. Or at least splatter some strawberry sauce on their perfect white outfits. Humans are flawed. Characters who are perfect will feel flat and one-dimensional.
Let your characters be larger than life. I might not be brave enough to turn around and tell a stranger in line to back off and give me some personal space, but characters who speak their mind will live in the mind of your reader long after they've finished the last page. Being larger than life doesn't mean that your MC has to save the world (although that's good too!). It can be as simple as letting your character stand up for herself when others would be scared.
Show your character's inner conflict. All of us struggle with choices. If you can show your character being mentally torn apart, especially if his choice adversely affects himself or someone he cares about, you've created a compelling inner conflict that will make readers sympathize.
Be consistent. Real people are full of contradictions, but your characters shouldn't be. They need to act "in character" even as they grow and change. If your reader stops to think, "Wow, I not sure that X would really do that," then you've pulled them out of the story. Make sure that your characters are acting consistently within the world you've created.
Know what your character needs. Characters who have a strong need for something pull us into their stories right away. The more apparent that need is, the more they struggle to get what they want, the more we want to see them succeed.
Make things difficult. Readers want to see the hero win, but not without a struggle. Working hard for something builds character in more than one way. Give your MC obstacles, limit their ability, then show how they can overcome.
I know I left some out so tell me in the comments: what other ways can writers make their characters more compelling?
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