Ten Ways to Make a Great Lead Character

(Originally posted January 2012)

It’s my belief that the most important part of any story are the characters, especially the lead character. Great characters = Great Story. So here’s my check list for a Hero worth reading about:
1. Give them a Goal. Who wants to follow a character who wanders aimlessly across the pages of your novel, surprised when things actually happen to them. Goals aren’t just fantastic for the character but also the plot and the suspense of the story.
2. Give them a past or a reason for being. The reader wants to know why this person is so special, why they want what they want, why they have to get it or they’ll just fall apart. Another word for this is motivation.
3. Give them a unique physical make up. If they’re not super good looking, then give them some other characteristic that makes them different. Even if they are “ordinary” they need something special to make them stand apart from the others.
4. Make them likable. Even if they do bad things, they must have something that will redeem them. Make the reader care about them achieving their goals.
5. Give them a flaw. Readers want someone real and nobody is perfect. We often like the quirky, or strange nuances of character that round off the entire being. They appeal to us.
6. Give them an enemy. There has to be some other person in your novel who is their direct enemy, better yet, who has the opposite directly opposing goal to theirs. Only by having this force of evil can we show how strong and remarkable our lead character really is.
7. Give them a confidante – A best friend, a family member, their own over active conscious. In order to empathise with a hero we need to know when he’s worried. Give him someone to whinge to.
8. Don’t go easy on him/her. When you think you’ve thrown the worst possible thing at your character, times it by ten and do it again.
9. Make them do something they would never do. Ie. Lead the read up the garden path and then soccer punch them. Making your character step out of their comfort zone shows growth which leads me to my final and MOST IMPORTANT point.
10. By the end of your novel, your lead character must be a new person, changed forever by their journey in both their goals and personal beliefs. Ie. They have grown.

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