Authors do all kinds of writing calesthenics creating characters. Some use cropped pictures from magazines to zero in on their target creation. Some prepare detailed notebooks of everything they intend their character to be. Others design elaborate story-boards to track their characters. And still others hear their character's voice and picture him/her in their mind's eye while putting words on the page to portray them.
Two of my favorite older television series had strong male protagonists leading the way to successful runs for both programs. Magnum P. I., starring the dashing and talented Tom Selleck, began with the former Navy man enjoying the luxury of Robin Masters' estate in Hawaii, charged with maintaining security much to the displeasure of the estate manager Higgins (John Hillerman) and his two Dobermans, Zeus and Apollo. Thomas Magnum appears to be a handsome playboy with little to do but jet around in the red Ferrari, making trips to see his buddies, one of which runs a local bar and restaurant and the other who operates a helicopter service.
Over the course of many seasons, Magnum's development and his and Higgins' relationship illustrate the depth of these two characters through tragedy, trauma, hilarity, and humanity. Tested and tried through all kinds of situations, the outstanding writing in the series demonstrated the desire to make these characters appealing with just enough commonality in their emotional makeup and basic humanity to allow the audience to identify with them in spite of their extraordinary and uncommon circumstances.
By using the military JAG corps as its focal location and basis for plots, once again we have a handsome "hero" in Commander Harmon Rabb (David James Elliot) but with the addition in the second season of the tough but attractive marine Major Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie (Catherine Bell). The sparks, friction, and competition between these two develops over the course of the series revealing the heartbreak in each of their pasts, what spurs their fierceness as attorneys, and how they stumble through their relationships. Once again the writing in this series keeps the viewer tuning in to watch the drama between these two lead actors as well as the other contributing characters in the show.
Both of these series lasted for several years with ongoing growth in the characters, strong protagonists with just enough fallibility to draw us to them, to help us identify with them, and to hope for their successes however that might be defined for them. Those of us who enjoyed these series hated to see them conclude even though we recognized they'd run their courses, and it was probably time for "The End" to be scrawled across the screen.
In our novels we must find the depth in characters which draw readers to them. Whether we nail the reader in the beginning chapter with mighty revelations about certain characters or if we take our time to steadily and methodically reveal important facets of their characters, we need to make sure the people on the page aren't stick figures going through the formulaic and predictable motions we so often see in fiction. It's never easy to make them unique, but it's always necessary to make them appealing.
Father, you gift, you give, you forgive, you direct, you guide all who choose to follow you. You bless. You are Love. We're desperate for you in all we do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.