Creating interesting characters is arguably the single-most important part of writing a great novel. Characters are what brings a story to life and poorly developed ones can kill it. At the very least, knowing how to create a strong character is as important as plotting your novel. Without a page-turning plot, your readers will soon be—well, not turning the pages at all. But even with a compelling story, the reader will only be interested in “what happens next” if he or she cares about the characters at the heart of the action. That’s what creating characters boils down to—making the reader care.
Readers Care About Interesting Characters
If you put a character that the audience doesn’t have any feelings about (or, doesn’t really know) on a high ledge, they won’t care if the character jumps out the window or not. But if you can get the audience to think about that character like a friend or relative in the real world, they won’t be able to put the novel down.
The most interesting characters are those who appear to be consistent but are capable of surprising the reader. In my own writing, I’ve found that the art of crafting such fully-realized characters boils down to four crucial elements: