I was working on a project over the weekend, and I have a character that’s just kind of lackluster. I’ve given him some good lines and he’s a likeable enough character, but he needs an edge. Something that makes him click a little better for me.
I’ve found that the best way to deepen a character is to give them a secret. This can be something as simple as “He’s afraid” or it can be something that you plan to layer into the plot later – for instance, Snape’s secret in the Harry Potter stories.
That secret colors everything about them, gives them a clear and decisive reason for their actions and the words they choose, and even if you never let your readers in on the secret, you know it and it makes a difference in how you write that character. It helps keep you on track and I’ve found that it motivates you to find more interesting ways of making that character interact, having that secret in mind.
Hidden motivations make for powerful reveals and puzzling discoveries, all of which drive your plot forward and keep your readers hooked. You never know what’s under the surface till you scratch it…give your readers something to scratch.