When you look at a character you have written for, do they jump off the page? Do your own little people interest you? If they don’t, you’re not alone. A lot of people list character traits, and that’s not wrong; Knowing who your characters are and what they stand for is very important. It is, however, quite hard to to come up with entirely new character traits and motives. Dominant emotions are different, it effects how your character thinks and how they look at the world around them. A character could be naturally angry, but how does that effect what they pay attention to? Well they would usually look for the more negative things and their thoughts would linger on what could go wrong. How would a character who is usually relaxed stand differently from one who is scared? If you still have trouble understanding what I mean, take this example.
Jane’s predominate character trait is ‘cleaver’. Stick figure Jane is running after a criminal. She quickly comes up with a trap and uses a stack of crates to jump onto a roof top. She then uses the apples that were inside of said crate to make the criminal run into a dead end by making noise down all the paths Jane does not want the criminal to take. Now infuse an emotion into Jane and see how she changes. Jane is only pretending to be cleaver, she actually very scared and has to try very hard to do anything useful. She ends up chasing the criminal to try to prove herself. While running she is constantly listing off things to remember so she doesn’t fail; Quiet breathing, light steps, he’s chosen three left turns so he’ll probably take a right next, darn he kept going left, gun is on the right. Jane then accidentally runs into the crate. Having lost sight of the criminal, she climbs up onto the roof. When an apple fall from her hood and startles the criminal away, she comes up with her plan and goes back to get the apples. Now imagine a whole book where Jane is clumsily doing cool things; not only dose it make her more interesting to read, it adds a plot layer and easily turns her into a dynamic character.