Feelings. Fears. Hopes. Dreams. Memories. These are what make a person. The life and blood of a story- the fictional characters- should connect to the human condition so well that, if written well, it’s easy to forget that they are fictional. Therefore, an author needs to understand every aspect of their characters. If this person were to walk into a bar, the author must know what drink they will order. For the reader to connect, the character has to feel real enough that they could sit down and have a conversation. That raw humanity of a character draws readers to them and makes it so that the reader can’t get them out of their mind. It makes readers fall in love or fall into hate with that character- and it’s up to the author to provide that connection for their readership.
This dilemma of creating the perfect complex character has plagued writers for as long as authors have told stories- which is quite a while. Their personality must feel human. In 1890, French writer Marcel Proust (1871-1922) published a questionnaire for just that purpose. Authors have been using it ever since as a tool to interview their characters and make them rounder and more three-dimensional. The questionnaire features questions ranging from ‘what is your idea of perfect happiness?’ to ‘if you were to die and come back, what would you be?’ Writingclasses.com provides a copy of Proust’s questionnaire.
Once a character feels like a real person, like someone who could plausibly exist in the world, the reader makes a deep connection that makes them want to read more of the story. Their personality makes the reader care what happens to them, laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. The author must treat them as though they are living, breathing person with a life lived worth knowing and a life to live worth reading.