Memorable characters are ones that mirror real people: their feelings, experiences, needs, and goals. Challenge yourself to get real with your character by first getting real with yourself. Grab a notebook and answer the following questions as they pertain to you:
What emotion do you struggle with because you feel it so deeply?
What type of situation makes you feel vulnerable or inadequate?
What past mistake causes you the most regret?
What core moral belief is so ingrained that you live it every day?
These questions require a deep look within and put us in touch with our authentic selves. This is what readers come to the page for, so answer these again, this time as your protagonist. When you finish, think about how you can incorporate some of these vulnerable moments into your story to show readers the deeper side of your character.
Your protagonist has been asked to showcase a little-known, unusual talent at a community fair’s talent contest. Begin on stage and show not only the performer but also the crowd’s reaction to this talent unveiling.
Looking for a writing exercise that gets you out of your chair? Decide what kind of store your main character likes to shop at. Go to that store and wander the aisles, looking for items your character would most be tempted to buy. Create a list of at least ten items, explaining why each caught your eye, and why you think your character would want the item. Bonus points for identifying your character’s guilty pleasures and how she would justify buying those items.
Write a pivotal scene in your novel from a different character’s POV. For instance: at a funeral, you may have written the grieving widow’s thoughts and feelings. Write about that funeral from the deceased husband’s POV, the eldest son’s, or the step-sister’s.
Choose a character and think of ways they’d react to things that happened during your (the writer’s) day. Use your experiences, think how you reacted, and then how your character would have reacted. Possible events: cut off in traffic, caught in the rain, missed an important meeting, lost a valuable item.
Nothing can create conflict for your characters like good old-fashioned fear. Take time now to define your protagonist's biggest fear. Is it something physical (e.g. tight spaces or flying in an airplane) or internal (e.g. fear of failure, commitment, or rejection)? Write a scene in which your protagonist must face this fear.
Our individual perspectives define what we first notice about a person's physical appearance. How do your characters see those around them? Describe one character's physical appearance from the perspectives of three other characters. What does each beholder's description reveal about who they are?