Do your characters talk to you?
I recently participated in an online chat with some editors and fellow writers. The subject was creating vivid characters. What I found fascinating was how many people exclaimed about their characters talking to them in some way. Two quick examples, one author said their characters came to them in their dreams, and another author brought up conversing with their character while doing housework. I believe these people were speaking about their main characters, the protagonists of the stories. The chat was not exclusively about protagonists. Secondary characters, including villainess antagonists and even minor characters, were discussed.
My characters don't speak to me. I don't have conversations with them, at least not on a conscious level that I'm aware of. That's not to say that I don't vividly imagine my characters––I do. At least I think I do. I think I know the hero of Dragons Walk Among Us, Allison Lee, as well as I know anyone regardless of the fact I don't have conversations with her per se. Instead, I imagine how she might react to any given conflict that comes her way. While editing, I'll ask myself questions along the lines of the following.
Is this how Allison would react?
Is the dialogue in Allison's voice?
Is the interior monologue in Allison's voice?
Do I need to do a deeper dive to really show Allison's emotional reaction?
If the answers to those questions are all yeses, I think I'm on a sound footing for a particular scene. Since the story is first person, it naturally revolves around Allison. As long as the story remains faithful to her, I'm doing my job. Some readers might not like her, and that's okay as long as she's true to herself. If this review from Readers' Favorite is any indication, I think I'm doing an admirable job with Allison Lee.
"This enjoyable story is well-crafted with a female protagonist that is not just lovable but adorable.”
What about other characters? I find myself thinking of them in terms of the conflict they bring to the story. How are their desires at hammerheads with the protagonist's and each other? By deciding the purpose of a particular character, I can fill in the appropriate backstory and character traits to fit the bill.
Anyway, if you struggle to create compelling characters as I have, you might find thinking about them in terms of the conflict they bring to the story will put you on a path to success. That approach has worked well for me.