What Makes a Good Fictional Character?


Caption: Well-rounded characters are difficult to create. Photo by: Iris Chiofolo

Whether or not a piece of media— books, movies, TV series, etc.—is enjoyable is dependent on the characters. While this is not the case for some people, I find that characters can make or break a story. This is especially true for main characters and narrators.


So, what makes a good character? Well, in my opinion, a well-rounded character is someone who has character development, is clearly driven and has realistic relationships with other characters.


A commonly known and well-rounded character is Anakin Skywalker from the Star Wars universe. Anakin is driven by his inability to help the ones he loves, like his mother and wife. He becomes overwhelmed with helplessness and resorts to the Dark Side to protect them. His character development is slow-building, starting with small acts of defiance towards his superiors and ending with his shift to the Dark Side.


His relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi changes as well. Obi-Wan is his mentor and Anakin is supposed to abide by what Obi-Wan tells him because he is Anakin’s superior. Anakin’s defiance seems inconsequential at first because they argue over trivial matters and as he starts questioning the Jedi and in turn Obi-Wan, he slowly realigns his morals.


A good example of a poor character is Harry Potter from the Harry Potter franchise. I find that Harry Potter is not a good character because his only drive throughout the series is to defeat Voldemort, the antagonist. After seven books–or eight movies–this becomes redundant and boring, and while he faces different trials throughout the series, he is still working towards the same goal. Harry Potter doesn’t have character development. He begins as a boy who doesn’t feel like he fits in and ends as a boy who doesn’t feel like he fits in, but with slightly more friends. I do, however, think that his relationships with Ron and Hermione are believable.


My favorite type of character is an anti-hero. An anti-hero is a character who blurs the lines between protagonist and antagonist. Anti-heroes are difficult to write and portray because of their finicky tendencies. A good example of an anti-hero is Kaz Brekker from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Kaz is not, by any means, a hero. He is driven by greed and vengeance and has no qualms about ruthless murder. However, Bardugo makes you want to root for Kaz because he has a tragic past and copes with it in unconventional ways. He was wronged and longs to get revenge. He desperately wants to be happy with those he loves, but he can’t because of his trauma. At the beginning of Six of Crows, Kaz is cold-hearted and closed-off. By the end of Crooked Kingdom, Kaz has tentatively learned how to forgive and is working through his past.


Fictional characters can be tricky to nail down, but can also be so rewarding. If a character is congruous, learning about their trials and tribulations is much more enjoyable.