‘An audience admires a character for trying more than for their successes’ says Emma Coates, a former Pixar Story Artist. That’s not to say that success cannot be admired but that it’s easier to relate to the effort. The hardest thing to admire is a character who has been successful in some way but who is smug about their achievements and draws attention to them.
In stories a well written character will take you on a journey, on some sort of quest. As this journey progresses you become drawn in and you buy into the character. Most people are, themselves, on a quest in life and they feel compassion and solidarity with someone who is sharing the same journey.
Very often the character of the villain will be the one who is basking in his or her own glory. This can be great fun to write and the writer has to keep the audience in mind and not create a hero character who they cannot relate to. At the other end of the scale a hero who is too passive or bendable will not appeal to the audience so a balance needs to be struck. Passive is not the same as likeable, in fact it’s the opposite in many situations. One way to avoid this is to give the character strong but plausible opinions. Readers look for consistency, so keep these opinions firm.
Feel the character yourself. What would you do in the situations that he or she is having to deal with. Honesty gives credibility to situations which may be unbelievable without it. Think about comfort. What is your character comfortable with? What would happen if you forced them to deal with the opposite situation?
These are some character development ideas. I have taken a lot of inspiration from Emma Coates and if you’re interested in this her Twitter @lawnrocket is well worth a follow.