What makes a fictional character charismatic?

character

Creating characters for your novel/manga/movie or other project can be an easy process, but you need to know their core personality.

Here are some elements that can help, if you want your character to be charismatic and interesting:

1- THE PAST

So you want your evil character to be super pretentious and look tough. But why is he like that? In other words, what shaped him to become the way he is today?

And here you can let your imagination flow: maybe he was beaten up when he was a kid, and doesn’t want to look fragile anymore. Maybe people always told him he was better than others.

Childhood is very important. It’s the phase when you start to discover the world and ask questions. Imagine your character’s daily life when he/she was in primary school. How was the relationship between his family and classmates? How about strangers?

Also think about the skills; if your character plays guitar like a pro, ask yourself what influenced him/her to learn it in the first place. Was it hard? And was it a real passion or just because the parents wanted it? 

To sum up: Every little thing you did before becomes what you are today. 

2- FLAWS

Vulnerability is what humans share in common. And strangely, it’s what makes us like and relate to each other.

So don’t try to make your character too perfect (even if it’s a Super Magical Fairy Robot). I don’t know about you, but I personally find that flawless characters are annoying, and other people might think the same way.

Stereotypes of a sublime character are: kind, brave, wants to save the world.

These qualities alone aren’t too original; that’s probably why many writers add flaws; Peter Parker (Spiderman) is socially awkward. Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul) feels stressed and weak after he discovers that he became a ghoul. Yet these two characters want to fight for justice; they have to be brave despite their insecurities.

To sum up: Putting some flaws makes your character more human and relatable. 

3- YEARNING

Your characters want something; this gives purpose to a story.

If you make your character have no desire whatsoever, he/she might be seen as dull.

Note: having no desire does not equal: “Not knowing what to do with your life“. In that case, the character yearns to find himself (and that’s one of the most popular yearnings in storytelling).

We all want something. It can be simple like eating your favorite dessert, or finding the love of your life. The stronger the yearning is, the more meaningful your story can be.

The yearning of your hero can be superficial (getting rich or famous), emotion driven (making friends with the person he loves), insane (killing everybody)…In any case, ask yourself why: the past and the flaws can be useful indicators.

To sum up: Your character yearns for something, this will induce action.

4- FEARS

Fear can itself be your character’s main flaw. But fear makes him/her even more relatable.

Behind every yearning hides some kind of fear. Example: two teenagers want to pass a school musical contest, but they begin to question themselves: they should go back to their main activities instead of signing. Plus there’s another girl, a competitor who does everything to put off their musical path. 

(This is a short plot of High School Musical ^^).

Something has to block your character’s yearning; this is what we call conflicts.

  • First, you might think of other characters having the opposite yearning.
  • Then, you can possibly imagine events that will make your hero suffer.
  • Thirdly, your character reflects on these events and questions his yearning.

It would be too easy to reach a goal without any fear. That again would make your hero flawless. So it might be important to think about human doubts.

To sum up: Yearning and fear are linked together.

5- CHANGE

There’s a quote that says: “Only stupid people don’t change their minds“.

If your story has a long duration, there might be events that will eventually shape your character’s mind.

Your hero is more interesting if by the end of the story, he has a new perspective. Example: maybe Barbara thought people were naturally bad, but a sequence of events led her to develop another vision.

Why do ennemies become friends? Because they changed their vision about the other person. None of this would have happened if there weren’t any conflicts. If you think about real life, we’re not the same person because we learn something everyday. Except it’s very small so it’s hard to see it. In a fiction, there should be more emphasis on the way people change, so that the story doesn’t feel “stuck”.

To sum up: character development gives your story a sense of time and motion. 

6- MANNERISM

Mannerism, or little habitual things, gives your character…more character.

Ask yourself: what details do I find attractive in a person? Think about the way someone smiles, or scratches his face, or runs. There are countless of ways one could do that.

Most love songs talk about “the way you look at me”, or “i love the way you move”. Probably because these physical gestures are more noticeable than “you’re so thoughtful” or “you dance well”.

A character is impressive by his personality and vision. Mannerism is a more visible approach to justify why you like or hate someone. 

Ugh, she’s always looking at the floor when she speaks” –> might imply the character feels inferior.

Mannerism doesn’t need to correspond to the way someone looks: for example, a seemingly severe teacher can talk with a cute melodious voice. You can make your characters original by avoiding many clichés.

To sum up: mannerism is the external image the character gives to the world. 


I have come up with six elements that I think are the most important. But I’m not an expert so if you think there are other aspects to mention, feel free to reply in the comments !

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