Creating fictional characters is one of the great things about being an author. You get to play a deity who fashions humans out of clay, wood, or even plain old flesh then dictate everything that happens to their lives. Cool, eh?
Once you become a deity, you can choose to be one of three things: indifferent, cruel, or compassionate. You can be indifferent and just use your created characters as supporting chess pieces to move along the story you want to tell. You can cruel, inflicting the worst of the worsts on your hapless children. Or you can be loving and compassionate to your fictional babies who owe their existence to you. When I wrote my novel I Killed My Friends and It Thrilled Me, I became the third and I didn't even expect it.
It's more cool than weird. There I was writing a story about a person killing his friends then declaring it thrilled him afterwards. Being a cruel deity during the process was the expected outcome. But no, I became compassionate to my red shirts (even to my protagonist) and fell in love with them even if they were destined a gruesome fate.
Here are four ways I discovered on how to fall in love with the characters you're writing.
Yes, you read that right. Kill them. Sometimes, in order to be compassionate you have to play cruel deity even for a while. If a character is destined to die in our story, we become more thoughtful in how we present them in every scene they appear in. Each dialogue, action, and reaction must matter. Every appearance must showcase their authentic selves, painting their own tragic but beautiful story in the limited time given to them.
And speaking of story...
Give Them a Sad Story
Yes, you read that right. Give them a sad story. Our characters must have their own unique sad stories: battles for dreams theydesire to achieve or disappointments that influenced the direction they took in life. Like in real life, every person bears a sad story; some already reached their conclusion, others still being written. It's those sad stories that shaped each person into either heroes or villains. Sad stories can even make antagonists sympathetic or even forge heroes out of underdogs, making characters complex where the choice to either love or hate them is no longer easy.
Spend Time With Them
You will not get to know someone unless you spend time with them. In real life, we have friends we didn't really like in the beginning of our relationship with them. Whether it was something trivial such as their manner of speaking or the color of their hair, we didn't want to be friends with them early on until we got to know them. Along with their strengths and endearing traits, we learned to accept their flaws and quirks because we spent time with them. The more drafts and revisions I made for my novel, the more I got to know my characters beyond their gender and name; increasing my relationship with each of them.
Give a Piece of Yourself to Them
We fashion our characters from different references and inspirations: movie stars, other fictional characters, or even people we know in real life. Sometimes, we create characters based on ourselves, or at least a piece of ourselves. It's like how I gave my secret adoration for pizza (which is not a secret anymore) to one key character in my novel, or how I bestowed a minor character my romantic issues. Because parts of myself existed in them, I couldn't help but make them my favorites no matter the role they played in my story. Narcissistic? Yes. But sometimes being a deity is like that.
It's okay if we don't fall in love with the characters we're writing. We are not obliged to. It's also okay to fall in love with them even if that's not our intention in the first place.