Contributed by Emiliene Alemkeng

Characters make a work of fiction come alive because it is through the various character portrayals that an author’s imaginative vision comes to live. Characterisation is one of the easiest ways to develop the plot of a narrative. Developing the different characters, their roles, personalities and ideologies can help in building suspense that is intriguing and entertaining to the reader. To develop characters succinctly, you must ask yourself several questions about them. Is the protagonist likeable? Does the antagonist show their mischief overtly or is he/she more of the Iago type? Answering these questions will take you a step further in your character and plot development journey.

Below are the three tips to help you build strong characters that will enhance your storylines.

Traits the protagonist has that develops conflict

There are numerous habits and experiences you give your characters in order to create conflict. The flaws of that character can lead to serious problems that heighten the plot. Do not create flawless characters because the moment of suspense might never arrive. First, it erases realism in your novel. Second, it will be hard to develop that character further due to the absence of conflict. Conflict is derived in many ways depending on how the flaws of the protagonist affect other characters. For example, a husband and a wife scenario in which there is always conflict because the husband does not put down the toilet lid or return the milk to the fridge. 

How does my protagonist react in a crisis?

The protagonist’s reaction in times of crisis is important because it can lead to a boomerang effect that furthers the plot and influence the actions of other characters. Brainstorm on the various ideas that can lead to a crisis moment in which the protagonist is at the center. Is he/she going to stay cool under the heat of pressure? Is he/she going to create an occasion of humour in his/her confused state? Choose a reaction that best reflects your story and explore.

How does the protagonist relate to his/her love interest?

Love is one emotion that creates a lot of conflict. It can lead the protagonist to behave in different ways depending on how their love interest treats them. Some stay calm or excited, others get into verbal tirades. In this instance, several other traits will be exposed that can either endear your character to readers or repulse them.

Characterisation is one of the most interesting aspects of narrative construction; because it is the point when the author’s imagination brings forth characters that are unique and sometimes surprisingly intriguing. This is because of the different ways the author perceives life as seen through his/her characters. The above tips relating to the protagonist’s traits, behavior in crisis moments and relationship with love interest could go a long way in enabling you build characters that would make your novel exciting to read.