Writing with Pen
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The success of your novel depends heavily on your characters and the whole story usually revolves around them anyway. That is why it is crucial to write characters that are interesting, distinctive, and memorable.

My name is Hadiza Bagudu. I am an author and a poet, and I am here to teach you how to write memorable characters that your readers will love and relate to, to ensure the success of your novel.

This is episode 3 of my creative writing series titled- How to write Memorable Characters and using the Nigerian Novel – An African Night’s entertainment, we are going to examine what makes a great character and how to write them in such a way that the reader will be hooked from the beginning and be totally invested in the journey of the character until the very end.

So, what makes a memorable character?

  1. Flaws: Your character must be flawed. Why, because, nobody is perfect, and everybody wants to know that they are not alone in their pain. Seeing your character have a flaw that they must work on is what will make your reader sympathize with the character and become invested in their growth. A character that started with a flaw of some sorts will have to work on it and either win or loose in the end. That is the journey. For example, in an African Night’s entertainment by Cyprian Ekwency, the three main characters: Alhaji Shehu, Abubakar and Zainab all had flaws. For Alhaji Shehu it was his inability to have children and his desire to get one at all costs. For Abubakar, his poverty and his inability to let go of his anger while for Zainabu its her indecisiveness that made her to be easily deceived by the Alhaji. The three of them took us on a journey of their flaws to an interesting but satisfying end.

  2. Fears and Dreams: Your character must be afraid of something but at the same time, they must have a dream that is so, powerful that they would face that fear head-on in order to achieve that dream. It is the conflict of the story that must be resolved by the end and it is the overcoming of or the succumbing to that struggle that makes the character worth investing in and keeps the reader interested . e.g The Journey of revenge of Abubakar, despite the obstacles, his fears and his ability to push through all of them until he achieves his objective is what makes An African night’s entertainment such a good read.

  3. A clear Goal: Your character must have a clear goal that they work towards, and your readers must be aware of it. Even if it is not clear how they would achieve it, but your reader must know where the character is going. Like we know that Alhaji Shehu would do anything, no matter how dubious to obtain the woman that would give him the son he desires, and that Abubakar will move mountains to get his revenge. How they are both going to do that, we don’t know, but we know their motives and we are interested in the outcome. The scariest villains are those that believes in a cause or a higher goal. Their believe is strong but their moral compass is corrupted. They believe they are doing the right thing and that what they are doing is bigger than themselves. That is what makes them terrifying.

  4. The story should revolve around your characters: That need to be said because, must writers fall into the trap of trying to make their stories interesting by cramming in multiple side characters in it and only end up derailing from the main characters. While having side characters is good, you need to pay more attention to the main characters. You need to make it clear from the beginning, who the main characters are and even if the side characters have their own stories, those stories must compliment the main characters journey, otherwise, it is just a distraction that you should do without.

  5. Good Physical Description: You should give the reader a good physical description of your characters so that they would be able to picture them in their minds. And the most memorable characters have some physical features or mannerisms that sets them apart from others. Maybe it’s a scar or a unique smile or eye color. Or even the way the walk or talk. Something that would leave an impression on your readers mind and create a connection with the character.  

In conclusion, memorable characters are important to grab your readers attention and get them so invested that they would read the story to the end just to find out what happens to them. Therefore, you need to focus on understanding who your characters are, what makes them tic, their dreams and fears and most importantly what goal they hope to achieve, and then try to express it as much as possible for your readers to digest. That is what makes a good story.

I hope you learnt a thing or two from today’s article. If you did, please check out my other articles on creative writing series on my blog page. Have a great day.