I am participating in Elana Johnson's blog experiment today. She has an interesting topic running on her site which is, How to Write Compelling Characters.
I've spent most of today really thinking about this (I mean really pondering; there are already almost two hundred people ahead of me on this topic) in a way that I'm not even sure if someone else has already mentioned it.
I was able to read a few of the then 184 participant's ways of making their characters compelling and I think they all did a great job and I agree with them.
Here are my two cents:
I enjoy following characters (main or sidekicks) who surprise me. Of course, I like to be able to relate to these characters as a reader but it's enjoyable to come across a character who has an opinion that I don't necessarily agree with. Maybe it's the main character but maybe it's the sidekick who occasionally reacts to a situation in the opposite way I would in the same situation.
There are several ways to achieve this type of surprise element with a character: Get loud in the library, hate something most people like, be funny at an inappropriate time, etc.. Try not to make your character annoying; nothing in excess, but surprise the reader. Inevitably this will make them flawed in a charming or compelling way.
In The Breakout Novel Workbook, by Donald Maass he has the writer think about something the protagonist or antagonist would NEVER do and then have them do that in the story. It's a great book for going back through your story and pulling out the types of compelling qualities you might not have thought of yet.
Okay, I have to go back and read some more ways to write compelling characters. Have fun writing!