Sixth element in this series: Kill Your Darlings: The Art of Revision
(Please read the Introduction, if you haven’t already.)
Create three-dimensional characters; avoid stereotypes and cartoon characters.
I know this may seem self-evident, but all too often I see the latter—characters that are caricatures, rather than portrayed as believable individuals; this is especially true when it comes to cops and robbers; don’t turn it into Loony Tunes or the Keystone cops, or Father Brown, unless that is your intent from page 1—as a spoof, or satire, or humor.
Have your characters reveal who they are through their words and deeds. Show and reveal, don’t tell.
How many primary characters do I need/should I have? A literary agent told me: There are two or three important characters to a story—all the rest are furniture. That may be oversimplified, but keep that in mind.
How many secondary or minor characters do I need/should I have, even if they don’t get a POV? What is the story reason for including a specific character? If you have no justifiable story reason, take that character out. At the very least, do not give that character a POV.
Example: A number of secondary characters are introduced at the beginning, along with lengthy backgrounds, then are never heard from again. Meanwhile, characters with much larger roles get short shrift. If you do this, you are doing a disservice to your readers, and they may set your book aside.
The amount of words you devote to a character should be directly proportional to the role that character plays. The smaller the role, the fewer the words.
Seventh in the series: Plot