I don't know about you but I hated the Stepford Wives. They were so boring - if I knew one, I knew them all. When you read a lot, characters can start to blur together, faces, attitudes and actions merge into a handful of different people.
How do we avoid this happening to our characters? Keep them from getting lumped into the masses?
We can give our characters quirks, habits that are unique to them alone. The more strange, outlandish, and different we make these quirks, the more readers will love them. Right?
It seems like this is the best option, that our characters will stand out and leap off the page. And they will. They'll leap off the page and stab your reader in the eyes.
But, if the realization isn't obvious: no one can read if they can't see.
Any quirks we give our characters need to be relevant. There needs to be meaning, a purpose (Harry Potter's lightning bolt scar, for example. Can you imagine how stupid it would've been if he really got the scar in a car accident and he was just walking around like that, for no real reason, on top of all the wizarding stuff?).
So if layering quirks to give our characters an edge isn't the best way to go about writing compelling characters what is?
We need our characters to have strong motivation - they may not always know what it is, at first, but maybe our novel is about them realizing their motivation (which is, in turn, it's own motivation - ironic right?).
We need to take from life by bringing real emotions to the table. As writers we must live their pain, relish their triumphs, cry and laugh, and worry with them. If we can't feel it, neither can our readers.
Our characters should be complicated. The reader needs to see the surface while innately knowing there is more to them than they could ever hope to know - like when we meet people in real life.
And last (and arguably the most important thing) to avoid writing bland, cloned, most-annoying-characters-ever is to make our characters rough. Flawed.
As both a writer and a reader I say this with complete and utter conviction: your characters aren't lovable in spite of their flaws, they're loved because of them.
To read more entries about writing compelling characters as part of the great blogging experiment go here. I encourage you to go check out as many as you can. My goal? Do.Them.All.