How to create more depth in your characters
Here are the notes I took when attending a workshop by Rachel Bailey on her winning tips for creating fully rounded characters. I applied them to give you practical examples. Hope you find them as useful as I did!
Give your characters complex, interesting and original backstories.
I’ll use Mel, my main character from Love at First Flight as an example. Mel’s father abandoned her and her mother when Mel was two years old and moved in with a woman he’d been having an affair with. Mel had a lonely childhood with no siblings and no cousins to play with. As an adult Mel never really fell in love and became pregnant at the very start of a new relationship so she married that man who she barely knew, Adam.
What baggage/issues will your characters have as a result of their backstory?
Mel remembers a traumatic and lonely childhood. She carries those feelings of abandonment with her through her adult life. She doesn’t feel connected to Adam who she married fourteen years ago only because she was scared to be alone and pregnant. She craves real love and is needy.
As a result of their backstory and the baggage they carry, what behaviours do your characters exhibit?
When Mel meets Matt she falls deeply in love, but because she remembers how she felt when her father abandoned her and her mother, she feels she must sacrifice her love for Matt and remain in her marriage. Mel is determined that her own family will be picture perfect after the family she grew up in was so dysfunctional. She makes sure that all is rosy for her children so she ignores her growing feelings of irritability and resentment and continues to play happily families.
4. Hopes and fears
A character must have hopes and dreams so that the reader wants to keep reading to see if these dreams are realised. But as a result of the baggage they carry, the fear of what the future holds acts as a road block for the character.
Mel dreams of living a life filled with great love and passion. But she is fearful of losing her family if she follows her heart. Her backstory means that losing her family is not worth it in Mel’s eyes to live her dream of being in love with her partner. Will her fear win in the end or will she follow her heart? That’s what will keep readers turning the pages to discover.