Characters are vitally important to any piece of fiction as it is to read about the human condition and the and joy we all experience that really moves readers and keeps them reading your work. People and readers are always trying to learn something new about what it is to be human and how to live in our world and so your characters need to reflect that.
There are three main requirements a main character must fulfil if they are to be a great character;
- Characters need to go through a transformation
- Characters need to be interesting
- Characters need to be either lovable or hated
It is important for characters to go through transformations that are satisfying to the reader a great example is the tale of the ugly duckling that turns into a beautiful swan. The main characters must go through a great change which may or may not be forced. This change could be personal growth, emotional growth reformation or something else. Above all they need to learn from their mistakes or faults.
A very simple method for creating a memorable plot is to create interesting characters and then put them in interesting situations. Another major ingredient for creating a great character is to make them interesting. When a reader is gripped by a story they will read on because they want to know what happens next, they want to know what this interesting character will do next when faced with certain situations and problems.
For a character to really resonate with your readers they need to be really loveable if they are the protagonists or really disliked of they are the antagonist. The reader must be able to identify with your characters which can be done through sympathy and empathy. If a reader cannot identify with your characters they remain lifeless.
For a reader to empathise with your character they need to feel that a part of themselves is similar to that of the character, this could be a personality trait or a situation or problem that they experience. Maybe the character feels lonely or friendless, they are being victimised or that they are very headstrong or down to earth. Your readers will have all gone through a lot of experiences in their lifetime and your characters must reflect the personal experiences we all go through. Ultimately if your readers empathise with your characters it means they understand them and therefore their subsequent actions within your story.
Readers will sympathise with a character by identifying with the characters problem and feeling sorry for them. If your reader successfully sympathises for your character they will want your character to succeed and resolve their conflict.
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creating characters but if they fulfil these three basic requirements you will be well on your way to creating great characters.