Characters we encounter in books aren’t so different from people we encounter in reality. For the most part; we are given a little insight into a person’s persona, and based on the little information we have, we make up the rest. Anyone that has ever experienced something like falling in love at first sight will be able to relate to the notion of falling in love with the idea of what a person could be like. We extrapolate things like the person’s sense of fashion, tone of voice, choice of words and even facial structure and expressions, and we form a character out of this. With books, it works exactly the same way.
When the phrase character development is mentioned, it is easy to get carried away thinking about character back-stories and how the character responds to events as the story progresses, but this only forms a little part of how these characters are perceived. Even characters with very little appearances can leave the reader with a lasting impression if developed properly. So before you get caught up in stories and filling the reader’s head with information, first, draft a basic persona for your character. For example, instead of telling the reader that one character made straight As in school and graduated top of their class to show they are a nerdy character, you could simply have them clutching a book in every scene and use their speech pattern to express intelligence. Instead of telling the reader that your character isn’t very fond of jokes, you could have them never laugh when everyone else is laughing. Physical attributes like a strong face with chisel features, or deep haunting eyes can go a long way in influencing how readers think about a character.
In my first novel, Lonely Roads, there is a character called Ofili that barely appears through out the book. He is a chief’s right-hand man and is described to walk with a ghostly gait, always paced like he has nowhere important to be. He never speaks and only nods. This kind of silence and mystery forces the reader to make up a persona for this character, and though readers never get to see his back story or hear him utter a single word, he has been referred to as the scariest character in the novel on many occasions.
If you are having problems with character development, you can use a simple table headed:
Emotional response (warm/cold)
By making sure all these aspects leave clues to creating the impression you want the readers to have of your character, you are already on your way to producing lovable and relatable characters.
Hope this has been useful. Fell free to ask questions in the comment section.