Characters are the building blocks of books. Done well, they can drive a bestselling career, despite weakness in plotting, pacing, and structure. Done badly, they can torpedo the cleverest story.
Tricks to help when making characters:
Ask yourself the three questions the reader asks to determine if your character is valid—So what? Oh, yeah? Huh?
Play the “What If” game—Ask What if…? Wouldn’t it be terrible if…? Wouldn’t it be funny if…? Wouldn’t it be ironic if…?
Balance the scales—for every strength, give your character a corresponding weakness.
Balance the scales—create an appropriate villain to challenge the strengths of your hero or heroine.
Know what your character wants—then make sure that your book is plotted to make it hard to get.
Know what your character fears—then make sure your book is plotted so that he must face and conquer that fear.
Know what your character dislikes—and use that to amplify the stakes in several scenes.
Use the tools of modern psychology, if it helps you—these can be anything from gender studies to enneagrams.
Make character sheets, if it helps you.
Make a bible—every time you add a character into a manuscript, write down the character’s name, any character traits you’ve gifted him with, and the scene you’ve involved him with. Add to this bible every time you add new layers to a character. Six chapters later, when the character pops up again, you can thumb through the bible and keep your characters consistent.
Let your characters create your story, or let your story create your characters, but make sure that the two are right for each other.
Use stereotypes to your advantage—either letting them shape the outline of your character, or letting your character play against them.