Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, your characters must be real and interesting for your readers to care about them. Flat, or one-dimensional characters do not inspire readers. Under normal circumstances, stereotypes should be avoided. However, in small doses, a stereotypical character may be inserted to illustrate a point; but none of your main characters should fulfill that role.
- Heroes and Villains
In most cases, your heroes are going to be essentially good. But modern heroes are not the same as the noble knights in shiny armor or the white hat-wearing cowboys of days gone by. Make your heroes real. Give them flaws and quirks. Consider the genius of an Adrian Monk (from the detective TV series “Monk”). His neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, and agoraphobic issues made him not only an endearing character, but also made him a better detective.
Unless your villain is a demonic monster, be realistic. Add some humorous quirk… a weakness… maybe even a chink in the “evil” armor. Even your villains need to be relatable to your readers.
Writers should be observers. Don’t get in trouble as a stalker. But go to a public place, and sit and watch people. Make notes of little behaviors you observe. Use these to strengthen your characters. Notice the different ways people walk, stand, talk, smoke, or whatever they are doing.
If all of your characters talk the same way, your story will not work! It will read more as a narrative than dialogue. The more you can attribute individual traits to each character, the more believable they become. Even if those little traits don’t seem to add anything to the story, include them for character development.