How do you build well rounded fictional characters without overwhelming your reader?
1-Appearance. Don’t describe every little detail of the appearance of a character. You don’t need to tell your reader how far apart the eyebrows of Lord Tangur are, what you need is to tell your reader the way other people (characters) feel around that character. Avoid lists at all cost. Drop physical details, peculiar is better, in between dialogues, let other characters notice them, let the reader infer them by actions (Just like for descriptions, show don’t tell, remember?)
Bad description: Lord Tangur was six feet tall, black hair, dark eyes, a monster of muscle. His disheveled hair fell all over his face. His black armor shone in the dim light. He grinned. Annie was scared.
Better description: Annie, eyes wide, took in the dark aura that seemed to surround Lord Tangur, towering over her in his black armor. Only Annie’s chest of drawer was in between them.
“What do you want from me?” Annie blurted, stumbling backward.
Lord Tangur just grinned shoving aside the chest with no effort. A red scar across his left cheek made his dark eyes seem more intense, more alive.
5-Avoid naming your characters with similar names or even the same starting initial. It’s confusing.
6-Introduce characters gradually, not all in the first chapter, unless you need to. I’m working on a book now where in my first chapter I had a group of seven friends, all of them relevant to the plot. I sweated nails for two days, then decided to focus on two main characters driving the scene forward, leaving everyone else unnamed as “friends” thinking I would introduce them later, which eventually I did. Except for two who were slaughtered in the process. (Tear shed.)
Lord Tangur walked into the room and Annie’s blood turned into ice. She had hoped she would have never seen the scary eyes above the red scar again.
Also, keep in mind that you don’t have to reveal the appearance of a character all at once. You can add details throughout a scene.
By the way, I have no idea who Lord Tangur and Annie are. Like most things I write they were just there lurking in my head when I needed an example.
2-Mould characters around people you know. A rookie mistake is to have all of your characters act the same way, yours. Diversify your characters. You don’t have to like all of them. If you do, you probably wrote a boring story. Keep in mind that some characters might have opinions you disagree with. You have to learn to walk in their shoes. One character might be a mishmash of three people you know, and that’s okay as long as believable.
Thank you for reading and happy writing ^_^