How to Create Lovable Book Characters

Helping your readers fall in love with your characters is a classic route to a successful book.
Helping your readers fall in love with your characters is a classic route to a successful book. Creating strong characters also offers the opportunity for developing a sequel or turning your book into a series. As a writer, to develop your characters, you’ll need to think through how they behave, their personality and style, what kinds of relationships they build - creating a character profile - also known as a character arc.

Create a character you care about

It’s no good expecting your readers to care about your characters, if you as the author don’t have strong feelings for them. The very first step is to give them a name which will resonate well with readers and match their personality. Author Rikki Evans admits not anticipating the emotional involvement it would take to create the character in the book. "During one lesson, my ballet teacher told me to put more feeling into my dancing: 'When you dance, do not dance, BECOME!’ So in a sense, during my writing time, I did not write Louise Fawley, but I became her. And my involvement with the character grew stronger and stronger as the work progressed. That experience was heightened by my choosing to write in the first person."

Describe how they look

You need to give enough physical description in the early part of your story for your readers to build a picture in their mind’s eye. However, don’t overwhelm them with lists about their clothing or style because they need room to imagine your characters. As Stephen King says in On Writing (p.202) "Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and near-sighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium. It’s also important to know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling a story."

Plan their backstory

Although planning a backstory is important, you also need to avoid oversharing their history as a descriptive chunk at the beginning of the book. The most beloved characters reveal their past and personality gently throughout the story, because it unfolds over time and affects how they behave in relation to the main events. Some characters deliberately lack warmth in favour of their high intelligence and humour - such as Sherlock Holmes; others are more complex such as Professor Severus Snape in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, who remains deceptive about his true nature, making it difficult to feel positively towards him.

Use dialogue to express their personality

Dialogue enables you to show instead of tell readers about your protagonist. Choose words which reflect your character’s personality, adding speech to demonstrate their character through their relationships with other people in the story. Speech also gives you the freedom to think about their tone, manners, or even slang phrases they might use - depending on the character and their circumstances.

Develop a realistic inner life

You can give your characters more depth by alluding to their inner struggles as well as their outer life. It’s easier for readers to relate to characters who show some vulnerability and aren’t perfect - so you need to plan what will go wrong for your hero or where their confidence has been knocked. Some cues to work with as you develop their inner personality are: what embarrasses your character; what keeps them awake at night; when do they get fearful or anxious; where do they love or hate to go; what makes them angry?

Some authors find that their characters begin to 'grow’ of their own accord when they start writing. So, if you’re finding it difficult to 'plan’ your character, you can start writing, then use your imagination and a whole series of what, when, why, who and how questions to dream what their reaction to various events in your story will be. When you develop depth in your characters, it makes them all the more lovable for your readers.

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