I’ve been working this week on fleshing the characters in my Birdie WiP, which I’ve been revising a few weeks now. It’s so easy to fall back on stereotypes, especially with secondary characters, and it’s got me thinking about how to make fresh, intriguing characters. How to make them human.
I know it’s a cliché to make your protagonist clumsy and awkward and feel out of place, especially in contemporary YA, but I think it’s cliché for a reason: that’s how so many of us felt in high school. I think there needs to be more to a main character’s personality, though. All of us have our own particular quirks. We have secret guilty pleasures. We have dreams we share with others and dreams we don’t dare speak aloud. These are the qualities that make us interesting and unique.
I’d rather read about a girl who collects porcelain pigs because her grandmother used to or who speaks with a lisp she tries desperately to hide. Something that sets her apart and makes her more real, not just another bumbling high school girl.
As for secondary characters, I try to stay away from the usual stereotypes: sassy best friend, nerd boy harboring a crush on the protagonist, etc. It’s fine for my best friend to be sassy, but she also needs to have her own interests and family life. The nerd boy needs to have some inner talent that may or may not impress the main character. No one fits into one tiny box.
What do you think? Do you think characters, especially main characters, need to be quirkier? Do you have any methods you use when creating characters?