Readers like to read about characters they can relate to—characters who have experiences, problems and emotions similar to their own. Readers want to understand why a character does what she does whether good or bad. They need to think: I would have done the same or I wouldn’t have, but I get it. Readers need to feel they’ve known or heard of people like the characters in the story. Writers must give characters real feelings, looks and behaviors. In order to make this happen, authors must create relatable characters. Here are some ways to do it.
Write complex characters, not one-dimensional cookie-cutter story people. Not all good or all bad. Give them flaws and have them acknowledge those flaws.
Reveal your characters’ attitudes and values. Do they value education, success, family, freedom, fame? Are they biased, conservative, liberal, honest, religious?
Share some of your characters’ personal stories. Maybe they ended a marriage or a sibling died. Give your characters hopes, dreams and aspirations. These are universal. Readers can relate to them.
Create real life problems for your character. For example, he forgets his glasses, misplaces his car keys, loses his cell phone. Readers will relate to his frustration.
Have your character struggle against his vulnerabilities and weaknesses. Readers struggle against their own vulnerabilities and will relate.
Character physical details contribute to creating relatable characters. You might give your character scars, tattoos, freckles, high-pitched voice, piercings. Have him dislike some things about himself—large nose, big ears, moles, overweight.
Motivation is universal. Describe what motivates your character—money, fame, respect, pride.
Add details about your character’s lifestyle. What are his favorite foods, music, colors, hobbies?
Give your character pain and fear. Let him fail at something. Readers can relate to these experiences.
Give your character a sense of humor. Readers will appreciate a little levity in their lives.
When readers see situations a character faces as ones they’ve experienced they see themselves or someone familiar to them in that character and they relate immediately.