1. Reconsider overdescribing her appearance or posting (regular) pictures of the lead female. How many of us are walking runway models? Or perfect depictions of the leading actresses/singers? Very few. Making your female PERFECT means alienating a lot of readers. It also means that you quickly fall into the risk of a "Mary Sue" lead. Now, this isn't a hard and fast rule, but there are certain things that I look at when I'm reading.
I can't speak for all readers, but since I'm writing this, I'll put a few of my pet peeves here:
- Pictures of the lead female - call me old fashioned, but I love to use my imagination
- Detailed descriptions of what the female lead is wearing and how her clothes fit her body. I'm all for this scattered throughout chapters, but when the description lasts several lines/a paragraph. Not so much. I'm reading the story for the plot, not the lead girl's body ;)
2. Give your lead female/OG some flaws. I know, I know, everyone can say that their lead female has some flaws. But I am probably referring to something different than what most assume to be flaws. I'm not talking about things like “moody” or “she’s too compassionate” or "she's guarded". I'm talking about flaws that will not help her at all. Is she very insecure about her body? Does she have a mental illness? Does she have gas? You need not mention them obsessively, but you should come up with some things that make her human.
Don’t make a world for your lead female/OG; make her part of the world.
3. Give her real problems. I'm not talking about "all these guys love me and won't stop chasing after me", or, "all these women are so jealous of me because I'm perfect". Give her more than frustrated love or parents who don’t understand her. Those are super common problems and in assuming them you are essentially limiting yourself to a common storyline. This is cool if you are fine with it. However, it won't set your story apart. If you’re going to give her a romantic problem, try to make it more general than “I really like him but my parents don't!” Or "My parents are abusive" or "they don't understand me". Consider drawing from other common, but less played problems.
- Severe financial problems
- Bullying sibling/sibling rivalry
- Family Secrets
- A longterm illness
- Dead end job
- Being worn ragged with school
4. Reconsider making her sharp, and witty, with a comeback to everyone. I love a character with spunk, but she has to be human. I think we all have times when we don't know what to say, can't come up with a sharp comeback, and well....prove that we are human.
5. Have your lead female make mistakes. This may seem like it goes with #2, but I'm giving it it's own number because I really want to drive this point home. Perfect people are boring. They are also alienating. To err is human. Remember that.
6. Have your lead female/OG interact with other characters. Have her engage in some conversations, some give and take, that don't always end up being about her, and where she actually learns things about the other characters.
7. Do not identify too closely with your lead female. PLEASE don't give her your name. Please don't make her "you". I get the draw, I do. But the closer you make her to "you", the more it'll feel like people's comments are comments about you. It is also often transparent to readers and makes them a bit uncomfortable. For example, when you call her "your baby", that's a red flag to readers. I'm talking police siren red. Or when she works in your field, has a family like yours, etc etc.
8. Finally, think about age. How close in age is she to Michael? Would their relationship be illegal/ bordering on pedophilia? Might the age pairing bring to readers' minds' the impropriety insinuated by past allegations?
~*~ UPDATED ~*~
@wonderfultonight posted an interesting link of questions related to OCs, which got me thinking about some of the aspects I neglected to touch upon here. Namely, some questions you might want to play around with in developing your OG (guy or girl). I'll include a few links at the bottom, but I've gone ahead and selected (and developed) a few questions that I feel are either commonly left unanswered or that can add a lot of depth to the character.
Note: These are in no specific order. All are important.
- What does the OG's name mean?
- What are the OG's nicknames? How did they come about?
- When faced with conflict, how does the OG respond?
- How does the OG see his/herself?
- How does each of the supporting characters perceive the OG?
- What embarrasses the OG?
- What are the OG's biggest shortcomings?
- How much confidence does the OG have in his/herself?
- What does the OG get upset about? What are his/her pet peeves?
- What is the OG's temperament like?
- What calms the OG?
- Who is the OG closest to?
- Who does the OG confide in?
- What is the OG's dream/goal?
- Does the OG have a specific catch phrase?
- What kind of things does the OG do that might hurt others?
- What is the OG fearful of?
- What does the OG do in his/her free time?
- How well does your OG interact with and understand others?
- How well does your OG understand his/herself?
- What divides your OG's definition of good and bad?
- How does your OG act most of the time? Is he/she irritable? Contemplative? Quiet? Outgoing?
- How does your OG respond to stress?
- How does your OG tend to see the world?
- Is your OG spiritual? Religious? Atheist?
- How educated is your OG?
- What is your OG's likes/dislikes? (e.g. food, place, fashion, tv show, music, movie, etc)
- What is your OG's personality like? (e.g. sense of humor, emotional stability, egotistical or humble, etc)
- What economic class is your OG in?
- What kind of career does your OG have?
- How does your OG define a friend vs an acquaintance vs family?
- How is your OG's health?
- What does your OG smell like?
- What features does your OG look for in a mate?
- What types of mates does your OG attract?
- What is your OG's culture?
- What is your OG's voice like? Think: volume, rate, accents, pitch.
- What was the OG's upbringing and later life, like?
- Ages 0-3
- Ages 4-12
- Ages 13-18
- Ages 19-29
- (and each decade thereafter)
- What are the defining moments in your OG's life?
- What about the OG attracts Michael?
- How does your OG express sexual arousal?
- How does your OG prefer to be courted?