It’s no secret that unique characters are key to successful storytelling. But in my experience, writers often err on the side of balance. They don’t want their characters to be over-the-top exaggerated, so they attempt to convey uniqueness through subtle strategies.
While that’s not bad, you could be missing out on a lot of great characters by trying to keep them ‘balanced’ or ‘plausible’. My advice is this: have fun and let loose!
Don’t be afraid to caricaturize your characters (say that five times fast!). What personality quirks make them so unique? Highlight those. Put them on display. Exaggerate them.
If readers wanted to spend time with subtle, balanced people, they’d go spend the weekend at the farm with Aunt Betsy. Subtlety leads to bland characters if not managed carefully. You don’t want bland characters! Bland characters are yuck!
Readers want to connect with weird, funny, dark, mysterious, angry, proud, pathetic, strong, timid, brazen characters. Bring each character’s most prominent traits to the forefront. They’ll be easier to understand and identify with, and you’ll have more fun writing them into your story!
Want an example? Look no further than Lloyd Alexander. His characters are unique, vibrant, loveable, and they all have personality traits on full display. If you don’t know who Lloyd Alexander is… *sad smile and comforting pat on the head*
Sure, sure, you’re writing fiction, not cartoons. So be prudent and purposeful. Try to avoid cliches and ‘typical’ portrayal strategies. But for heaven’s sake, don’t be stingy with your characterization.
Let loose and have fun. Your readers will appreciate it.
(Disclaimer: I have nothing against Aunt Betsy. I’m sure Aunt Betsy is a lovely person.)