Updated: May 7, 2022
Professional book editor in the UK explains how to bring your boring protagonist to life & add intrigue to their character and personality!
Making flat fictional characters more interesting can be a challenge if you don't know how to flesh them out into a three-dimensional person - ugh, I've been there and completely understand the frustration. I used to have one, and no matter how many character sheets I filled out, I could never make this character feel real!
But since working out how to turn a lifeless character into someone who jumps from the page, I've no longer had this problem, so now I want to share my tips with you so you can make your main character pop!
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decide to make a purchase through the products and services I recommend. I only recommend things that I truly love and use, so I hope I can recommend something to you that you can love too! :)
1. Create a Visual of Your Protagonist
Whether you like drawing, painting, making cartoon avatars on various apps or finding inspiration and photographs online, it's a good idea to have some kind of visual of your protagonist.
You may not think this would help, but downloading a free avatar app that allows you to create cartoon characters really helped me to get to know the hero of my fantasy story. Not only did it help me to physically see her, but I could then visualise her demeanour, mannerisms and actions in certain situations.
Here's the cartoon avatar I created, and as you can see, my protagonist appears to be quite the cool girl with her edgy black clothes, eyebrow piercing and casual stance, which then makes me imagine her as a laid back person who's ready to go and doesn't care too much about her appearance. She can also be a bit moody too, but then who isn't at times?
If you like the look of the avatar I've made for my female protagonist and want to make your own for your characters, head to the app store and install "Avatoon".
It's the best avatar app I've used so far to make cartoon characters, and it's completely free!
2. Don't Get Too Caught Up With Originality
Yep, we all want to write amazing novels with memorable characters, but sometimes, writers can fall into the trap of trying to make their protagonist completely original or so different from themselves that they get stuck.
It's understandable that you want to create a main character people love, but that doesn't mean that you can't base them partly on yourself, people you know or celebrities you look up to.
If anything, it's much easier to base your protagonist on two to three different people you know (in real life and on TV) so you can make them as realistic as possible.
The cartoon avatar I created (above) is partly based on myself, one of the girls I went to school with and Elliot (Ellen) Page.
Related Post: How to Create a Strong Female Character for Your Novel
It's incredibly difficult to create character who isn't based on someone familiar, so my inspiration for her came from three different people, including myself, which made the character creation and development process much simpler.
Don't feel like you shouldn't use yourself or other people as inspiration for your protagonist - the best characters are relatable, so why not base them on actual real people?
3. Imagine Your Protagonist During Your Ordinary Day
This one may sound silly at first, but it's worked for me.
As my protagonist is in a close friendship group with three other characters, their dynamic is comforting for me, so I like to imagine what they'd be like in reality - picturing their actions to certain things that happen during my day and imagining what they would say.
For example, if a loud motorbike sped past them, would the sound make them flinch or would they be unfazed? If a dodgy-looking person walked towards them on an empty street, would they cross the road or risk it? If they witnessed someone fall over, how would they react?
Related Post: How to Create a Memorable Side Character in 4 Easy Steps
In answer to those questions, my main character (in the picture above) would remain unfazed if a loud vehicle whizzed past her, she wouldn't cross the road if a dodgy-looking person walked towards her on an empty street as she's confident in her self-defence, and she'd probably snigger if she saw someone fall over.
4. Create a Playlist of Music Your Protagonist Would Listen To
I know that many writers listen to THEIR favourite music when they're in the writing zone, but listening to the type of music your protagonist would listen to can really help you to get to know and understand them.
For example, my main character would listen to indie rock music, so artists like Arctic Monkeys, Gorillaz, Keane and The Neighbourhood.
This type of music perfectly reflects her laid back personality, and could also mirror her chaotic thoughts and feelings when she gets moody.
Thank you for reading to the end of this post, it means a lot and I really appreciate it!
If you found this article helpful, please like, comment and share so it can reach more writers who could use the advice, and if you're looking for a professional book editor in the UK, please feel free to check out my book editing services and get in touch!
- Chelsea x
Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my editorial business in the UK. If you're looking for professional book editing services, please get in touch!
With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!