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The Compelling Character Checklist

Table of Contents

When it comes to writing a captivating story, compelling characters are the lifeblood. They’re the driving force that carries readers through your fictional world, keeps them hooked from beginning to end, and leaves a lasting impression long after the final page.

Characters are not just vehicles to propel your plot forward; they are the heart and soul of your narrative, inviting readers to invest, engage, and embark on an emotional journey.

But how do you create characters that aren’t just believable, but also intriguing, relatable, and memorable?

The process of character development can be complex and multi-layered, as you need to consider aspects like personality traits, backstory, motivations, and character arcs. It’s more than just crafting a character profile; it’s about creating a living, breathing entity that evolves with the story, engaging the readers every step of the way.

Whether you’re writing a brooding hero, a cunning villain, or a supportive sidekick, it’s important to remember that compelling characters are individuals with their own dreams, fears, strengths, and weaknesses. They’re flawed, they grow, and they face conflict, just like real people do. They make choices, for better or worse, that can drive the plot and reveal their true nature.

Moreover, great characters often transcend the page. They spark readers’ imagination, make them care about their fate, and elicit a wide range of emotions. Readers might love them, hate them, admire them, or feel frustrated with them, but they’re never indifferent.

To help you craft such characters, I’ve developed a comprehensive “Compelling Character Checklist”. This checklist serves as a guide to ensure that your main character—or any character, for that matter—is well-rounded, engaging, and capable of pulling readers into your narrative world.

Each point on the checklist highlights a key aspect of character creation that, when implemented effectively, can enhance the depth and appeal of your characters.

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The Compelling Character Checklist

  1. Unique and Interesting: Is your character unique and interesting? Characters need to stand out in some way to capture readers’ interest. They should have distinguishing characteristics, quirks, habits, or background stories that set them apart.
  2. Motivated: What does your character want more than anything else? Characters should have clear goals or desires that drive their actions. These goals provide a direction for the story and give readers something to root for.
  3. Flawed: Is your character flawed or imperfect in some way? Flaws make characters relatable and human. Whether it’s a physical limitation, a personality trait, or an emotional vulnerability, a character’s struggle with their flaws can add depth and tension to the story.
  4. Dynamic: Does your character change over the course of the story? Dynamic characters evolve due to the events in the story. This character growth or transformation makes the journey more satisfying and meaningful for the readers.
  5. Relatable: Can readers relate to your character on some level? Even if your character is vastly different from your reader, they need to possess some universal emotions, experiences, or motivations that readers can identify with.
  6. Consistent: Is your character’s behavior consistent with their personality and background? While characters should grow and change, their actions should still align with their established character traits. Inconsistencies can make characters feel less believable.
  7. Active: Is your character proactive instead of reactive? Characters should take charge of their circumstances and make decisions that propel the plot forward. Passive characters who simply react to events can make for a less engaging read.
  8. Backstory: Does your character have a well-developed backstory? A character’s past can explain their motivations, behaviors, and personality. However, avoid info-dumping; backstory should be revealed gradually and at appropriate times.
  9. Conflict: Does your character face both internal and external conflict? Conflict drives the story and influences character development. Characters should face obstacles in achieving their goals and struggle with internal issues such as fear, self-doubt, or moral dilemmas.
  10. Empathy: Does your character inspire empathy? Readers don’t always have to like a character, but they should care about what happens to them. Even unlikable characters can be compelling if they evoke sympathy or curiosity.

It’s important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to character creation; the best characters often break molds and defy conventions. However, following this checklist can help you to ensure that your characters are dynamic and engaging so that readers connect with them and feel compelled to keep reading your story.

If you found this resource helpful, please do check out my other blog posts on writing and publishing! I think you’ll find something interesting there. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again soon!

About Rebecca Wilson

About Rebecca Wilson

Writer, designer, and book coach Rebecca Wilson has been publishing a broad variety of creative books for more than half a decade. She combines her teaching background and publishing expertise at SelfPubMagic to share her love of bookmaking with other creatives.