5 Characters Every Novel Needs

by , Friday November 28, 2014
5 Characters Every Novel Needs

Is your protagonist looking a little lonely? Shake things up with these must-have character types...

Whether you’re writing an epic sci-fi extravaganza or a sizzling romance, some roles need to be filled, whatever your genre.


1. The Protagonist

You don’t have to be a genius to figure this out, but creating a compelling main character can be one of the most challenging aspects of  novel-writing. The protagonist is the most significant point of identification for the reader, so you need to make him or her relatable. This means exposing their weaknesses as well as conveying the character’s strength. Like The Boy Who Lived and The Girl on Fire, the best protagonists tend to be those who disturb the status quo and can’t help but go looking for trouble.


2. The Antagonist

There’s no story without a conflict, and giving your protagonist a villain to contend with is a must. However, your antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be bad to the bone. Some of the most iconic antagonists turn out to be anything but – think poor, misunderstood Snape! All that matters is that your antagonist propels the protagonist into action, and acts primarily as a huge stumbling block that gets in the way of what your main character wants. Of course, if you prefer a pure evil villain, like Moriarty or Voldemort – go ahead!


3. The Comic Relief

Even the most serious story can have its lighter moments, and a side-character that’s bursting with wit and charm is the perfect way to provide this. However, this doesn’t mean that your comic relief has to be a total joke. Take the vintage example of Timon and Pumbaa from ‘The Lion King’. After the death scene that traumatised all of our childhoods, the lovable meerkat and goofy warthog step in to bring the much-needed laughs, but also step in to care for Simba as he grows up away from the Pride, teaching him valuable life-lessons. Hakuna Matata!


4. The Role Model

Whether it’s a perilous quest to defeat evil, or simply trying to navigate starting a new school – whatever your subject matter, your protagonist is going to need a little help along the way. A good role model can provide this much-needed guidance; offering a shoulder to cry on, imparting wisdom, or just being their generally awesome self that the main character can try to emulate (really, we should just rename this character type ‘the Dumbledore’).


5. The Romantic Interest

A memorable love interest is tricky to get right. You need to make sure that your protagonist’s beau is an awesome character in their own right, rather than a sickeningly perfect knight (or lady) in shining armor, whose only function is to sweep the main character off their feet. They should be a fleshed-out person, with their own flaws and conflicts. And remember: not every romance needs a happy ending...


Here’s the important bit, though: a single character can inhabit more that one of these roles. Take Augustus from ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. He’s Hazel’s love interest, for sure. But he also acts as a role-model, inspiring Hazel to take risks, and encouraging her to not be afraid of living life to the full–even when all seems hopeless.

What are your favourite type of characters to write? Let us know in the comments!

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