One of the things I keep in mind when writing the first draft is that the plot doesn't happen alone. The plot happens to the character from page one. Every scene, every incident, every chapter, advances the plot but it also advances the development of the MC's personal character.
How the character behaves in each scene depends upon inner tension and conflict as well as what's happening in the plot. The character's reaction has a direct correlation to this inner conflict. Isn't that what real people face every day? Two similar examples:
- Mrs. So and So had a rough day at work, her boss is unhappy with something she did or didn't do, and all she wants to do is sit down and relax. But the minute she walks in the door, her daughter reminds her it's Meet the Teacher night. What will her reaction be?
- Then there's Mrs. Such and Such down the street. She has had a fabulous day in real estate by selling the largest home on her list, she walks in the door and her daughter tells her it's Meet the Teacher night. Will her reaction be the same?
When I get to the end of my first draft I want to see that not only does my plot have a satisfying resolution, but my MC has grown, resolved some of the conflict and tension in his/her life, and have become someone my future reader identifies with like a good friend. In order for the reader to feel that way about the character I've created, I have to make the MC someone to care about, who is believable, and has enough inner conflict that my reader carries a touch of anxiety throughout the novel hoping that things work out all the way around.
I like to think about my main character as a person I just met who later becomes a friend. The first time I meet a future friend, I usually like her by what she says, does, or reacts to a given situation. I don't really know much about her, but gradually over time I learn how that person feels about things, what kind of temperament she has, and what she likes and dislikes. If I learn she has problems, I worry about her. I watch, listen, and encourage her. By the end of one year I can honestly say the person I met twelve months ago is not the same person I have come to know and usually I like her even more. I sure hope my reader feels the same way about my MC.
What does creating memorable characters mean to you?