How to Write Relatable Characters: 7 Tips to Make Readers Care

a group of relatable characters

Key Takeaways:

  • Give your characters human-like qualities – like real passions in life, interesting backstories, and unique traits.
  • Instill your characters with agency, meaning they make decisions and take actions that impact the story.
  • Incorporate realistic flaws into each character, making them more believable.
  • Show characters facing and actively addressing real struggles and problems.

When I was younger, I used to love reading books about characters who felt like they could be my friends. I wanted to feel like I was a part of the story and relate to the characters personally. There was something magical about finding a character I could see myself in or one who echoed my own aspirations and fears.

As an adult, I still love reading books with relatable characters, but now I want to write fantastic book characters in my own books and screenplays too!

But how can we, as writers, write characters that transcend the confines of our pages? How do we make them feel as alive to our readers as they do to us?

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing your debut novel, short story, or drafting a screenplay, the essence of storytelling remains the same: it’s all about the characters!

Let’s get into how to write characters that your readers will relate to on an emotional level!

Why Are People Likable?

People are often drawn to others with pleasant personality traits. Possessing a sunny disposition, for example, tends to make people likable.

People also tend to be attracted to those who are confident and self-assured.

Those who can project an aura of calm and tranquility are also generally considered more likable than those who appear anxious or stressed.

Furthermore, friendly and approachable people are typically likable than those who seem aloof or uninterested.

People are likable when they possess qualities that make them pleasant and enjoyable to be around. Let’s use this knowledge to help build the main characters of our own stories!

how to write relatable characters

How to Write Relatable Characters

1. Humanize Your Characters

All iconic and memorable story characters feel human and relatable.

By making your story characters relatable and three-dimensional, you give readers a character they can invest in and root for. Humanized characters add depth and richness to your story, helping to create a more complex narrative.

Finally, grounding your characters in reality makes it easier for readers to suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in your story world.

In short, humanizing your characters is essential for writing a successful and engaging story.

2. Give Agency Early In The Plot

Every story needs a strong character at its center. Without a character readers can invest in, the story will quickly fall flat.

One of the best ways to ensure that your character is successful is to let them take action early on in the plot, such as in your story introduction or in the rising action part of your story. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to save the day or defeat the villain – it can be something as simple as standing up for themselves or taking a stand against injustice.

Whatever the case, giving your character agency from the very beginning will help ensure their success throughout the rest of the story.

character with agency

READ MORE: If you’re writing a villain in your story, check out this list of villain ideas and villain quirk ideas that you can use for inspiration!

3. Show Their Passions in Life

Every story needs characters that the audience can relate to and connect with on some level.

One way to ensure that your story characters are relatable is to show their passions in life. What are the things that get them excited and make them feel alive? This can be anything from their hobbies and interests to their profession or job.

By showing your story characters’ passions, you humanize them and make them more relatable to your audience.

Additionally, readers will be more engaged with the story if they can see what drives the characters and see them striving for something they’re passionate about. This ties in nicely with the theme you’ve chosen for your story – sometimes, it works well to connect your character’s passions and personality to the story’s theme (such as family, identity, or even revenge!).

You can also think about character archetypes too – is your character going to be more of a caregiver or an explorer? A rebel or an ‘everyperson’?

group of minor characters

4. Give Them a Backstory

In literature, a story character is usually more than just a name and a physical description. A well-developed, believable character also has a history and personality that readers can learn about as the story unfolds.

This process of revealing a character’s backstory is often essential to engage readers and make them care about what happens to the character throughout the story. You’ll want to consider this as you build the world of your fictional story.

One reason why it is important to give story characters a backstory is that it helps to make them feel like real people. Readers are more likely to empathize with characters who have relatable experiences and motivations.

In addition, understanding a character’s backstory can help to explain their behavior within the story. For example, if a character is struggling with addiction, their backstory may include events that led up to their addiction, such as trauma or peer pressure.

Giving story characters a rich history allows writers to create complex plot lines. You can add layers of conflict and tension to the narrative by introducing characters with different backstories. For instance, two characters may have opposite views on a controversial issue because of their different upbringings.

If you’re having trouble thinking of a good backstory for your characters, try out an AI story generator software program! These are fantastic for giving you ideas for unique and interesting character descriptions or backstories.

READ MORE: For inspiration, check out this list of character backstory ideas!

5. Give Unique Personality Traits

In any work of fiction, the protagonist is the central figure around which the story revolves. As such, the protagonist must be a fully developed character with unique personality traits. Readers need to be able to empathize with the protagonist to become fully invested in the story.

Everyone has a unique personality that is made up of character traits, values, and beliefs. While some of these traits are innate, others are shaped by life experiences.

Ideally, you will give both your protagonist and your antagonist (the character who opposes your protagonist or main character!) unique and realistic personalities.

Personality traits can be positive and negative, but they all contribute to making each person distinctive.

Some common character traits include honesty, loyalty, courage, and compassion.

Values are principles that guide our choices and actions. They help us to determine what is important to us and what we believe in.

Beliefs are convictions that we hold about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Together, these different aspects of our personality make up who we are as individuals.

Here’s a list of some possible personality continuums that you can consider when you are writing your next main and supporting characters (and thinking about what personality traits they might have):

  1. Introversion <-> Extroversion: Prefers solitude and introspective activities vs. thrives in social situations and group activities.
  2. Analytical <-> Intuitive: Makes decisions based on data and logic vs. trusts gut feelings and instincts.
  3. Planner <-> Spontaneous: Values structure and foresight vs. lives in the moment and is adaptable.
  4. Empathic <-> Detached: Highly attuned to others’ feelings and needs vs. maintains emotional distance.
  5. Optimistic <-> Pessimistic: Sees the positive in situations vs. focuses on potential risks and downsides.
  6. Reserved <-> Expressive: Holds back emotions and thoughts vs. openly shares feelings and ideas.
  7. Traditional <-> Innovative: Adheres to established ways and customs vs. seeks new methods and challenges the status quo.
  8. Passive <-> Assertive: Tends to avoid conflict and yield to others vs. stands up for oneself and voices opinions.
  9. Concrete <-> Abstract: Prefers tangible facts and details vs. enjoys theorizing and looking at the big picture.
  10. Rigid <-> Flexible: Sticks to rules and set ways of doing things vs. easily adjusts to changes and new information.
  11. Skeptical <-> Trusting: Questions others’ motives and veracity vs. gives people the benefit of the doubt.
  12. Impulsive <-> Cautious: Acts on immediate desires and feelings vs. thinks things through before acting.
  13. Pragmatic <-> Idealistic: Bases decisions on practicality and feasibility vs. guided by values and visions of what could be.
  14. Competitive <-> Collaborative: Strives to be the best and outdo others vs. works well with others and seeks win-win solutions.
  15. Independent <-> Interdependent: Values self-sufficiency and autonomy vs. values connections and working in harmony with others.
  16. Materialistic <-> Spiritual: Focuses on tangible possessions and worldly achievements vs. seeks deeper meaning and purpose in life.
  17. Adventurous <-> Cautious: Seeks out new experiences and challenges vs. prefers comfort and known environments.
  18. Aesthetic <-> Functional: Values beauty and artistic qualities vs. values practicality and utility.
  19. Intellectual <-> Instinctual: Relies on thought and learning vs. relies on innate drives and feelings.
  20. Individualistic <-> Collectivist: Prioritizes personal goals and rights vs. prioritizes group harmony and community.

Understanding where a character falls on these continuums can provide depth and offer opportunities for growth or conflict within a story.

If you need assistance writing unique story characters, one new method is to use an AI story generator to help! These artificial intelligence writing programs can help you develop characteristics, backstories, and personalities for your story characters!

6. Create Flawed Characters

Flawed characters are important in fiction because they make the characters relatable. No one is perfect, and readers can connect with a character who has faults and makes mistakes. A character who is too perfect can be unrelatable and uninteresting. In addition, flawed characters make for more intriguing stories.

A story about a character who always does everything right is not as exciting as a story about a character struggling to overcome his or her flaws.

Some common character flaws include being manipulative, overconfident, impatient, and unreasonable.

Manipulative people may take advantage of others or twist their words to get what they want. Overconfidence can lead someone to underestimate their opponents or take unnecessary risks. Impatience can cause someone to act rashly or make decisions without thinking them through. And being unreasonable can prevent someone from seeing both sides of an issue or compromise.

Here’s a list of some interesting flaws that you could consider for your next story:

  1. Memory Hoarder: Remembers every slight or offense, no matter how small, and struggles to let go.
  2. Echoist: Overly attuned to the emotions and needs of others to the point of neglecting their own needs.
  3. Compulsive Gambler: Not necessarily with money, but takes unnecessary risks with personal relationships or opportunities.
  4. Time Bender: Has an altered perception of time, often underestimating or overestimating time passage, leading to missed appointments or over-preparation.
  5. Over-Compensator: Always feels like they have something to prove, leading to potential recklessness or insensitivity.
  6. Hedonistic Myopia: Pursues immediate pleasures without consideration for long-term consequences.
  7. Rigid Perfectionist: Obsessed with achieving perfection, often missing the bigger picture or alienating others in the process.
  8. Chronic Hero Syndrome: Always needs to be the savior, sometimes to the point of putting themselves or others in unnecessary danger.
  9. Obsessive Comparer: Constantly compares themselves to others, leading to jealousy, insecurity, or overconfidence.
  10. Martyr Complex: Believes they must suffer for the benefit of others, even when it’s unnecessary.
  11. Pathological Independence: Refuses help or collaboration, even when it’s in their best interest.
  12. Trust Pendulum: Swings from being overly trusting to extremely suspicious without much in-between.
  13. Reckless Generosity: Gives away too much—time, resources, or emotions—often to their own detriment.
  14. Escapist Dreamer: Lost in their dreams and fantasies, neglecting real-world responsibilities.
  15. Chronic Underestimator: Consistently underestimates their abilities or the gravity of situations.
  16. Nostalgia Addict: So attached to the past that they struggle to live in the present.
  17. Prideful Ignorance: Refuses to admit when they don’t know something, often leading to mistakes or misunderstandings.
  18. Reluctant Responsibility: Tends to shirk responsibility, but not out of laziness. Rather, from a fear of failure.
  19. Hyper-Correctness: Obsessed with being politically or factually correct, often coming off as pedantic or insensitive.
  20. Misplaced Protector: Overly protective of the wrong things or people, often leading to misguided decisions.

While these flaws can have negative consequences, they often make for interesting and complex characters. After all, few people are perfect, and these flaws help us relate to and connect with fictional characters.

flawed characters

7. Show Your Character Struggling

Many readers can relate to characters who are struggling in some way.

Perhaps the character struggles with personal demons, such as depression or addiction. The character may face external conflicts, such as a demanding boss or a challenging situation.

Whatever the case, readers can connect with characters who struggle. You humanize and make your characters more relatable by showing them struggling. As a result, readers will be more invested in your story and more likely to empathize with your character.

In addition, a character’s struggles can help drive the plot forward and create suspense and tension until the resolution of your narrative.

8. Cause Your Character to Take Action on a Problem

In any story, the characters must face some sort of problem or conflict. A perfect character who has no problems leads to a boring story!

Readers love to see the characters taking action to solve a significant problem – this makes a story exciting.

You need to make sure that your characters take action because it allows the reader to identify with them. We all have problems in our lives that we must face and overcome, and seeing characters taking action on their problems can help us feel empowered to do the same in our lives.

relatable character

Overall, the characters you create are what make a story relatable and interesting.

In my option, to create relatable characters, you need to humanize them so that the reader can see themselves in the story. But, don’t humanize them so much that they start to become like an annoying acquaintance!

Giving your characters quick actions encourages readers to follow along with the plot without getting bored. Showing their personality and passions in life can also help keep readers interested. Finally, by giving your character a backstory, you show how they became who they are today.

This makes them more three-dimensional and easier for readers to connect with. Letting your character struggle and overcome those struggles makes them even more likable.

How to write relatable charcters

Common Questions

What does a ‘relatable character’ mean?

When we read a book, watch a movie, or play a video game, we want to be able to see ourselves in the characters. That’s why relatable characters are so important. We want to identify with them and feel like they understand us. When we see ourselves in the characters, it helps us to understand the story on a deeper level.

What type of character is relatable?

Relatable characters are usually the main ones dealing with problems in a story. These problems can be inside their own minds, like tough choices, or outside, like troubles at work. Readers feel for these characters and get really into their stories. There’s no single type of relatable character – they’re just ones that make readers feel connected.

Why are relatable characters important?

Relatable characters are important because they help us connect with the story. When we see parts of ourselves in these characters, we are emotionally connected and we care more about what happens to them. This makes the story more interesting and helps us understand it better.

Love learning more about great storytelling? Check out these other articles:

What is Falling Action in a Story? [Definition and Examples]

What is Pacing in a Story? Tips for Story Pacing for Writers

75+ Free Character Ideas to Inspire Fiction Writers

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