When I first started writing, I was dreamy over the perfect heroes I could create. Devastatingly handsome, charming, and smart, of course. I created a perfect list for a perfect hero. In fact, I created perfect heroines, too. No problems, no worries, no fretting about their weight or their hair or their past. And then I'd let life happen to them. Car crashes, kidnapping, whatever I could think of to create disaster for them.
But what did that give me? Conflict for sure--which is essential for a novel. But making perfect characters didn't give them any room for growth. Any reason for readers to want to know more because by the time I had the first scene established, my perfect characters were simply waiting around for something bad to happen to them and they'd handle it accordingly.
So I studied ways to give characters more dimension and the depth they needed to capture a reader, and came up with a handful of ideas to help create interesting--though not quite perfect--main characters.
This not to say dump back story in the first chapter but a great way to add depth to a character is to give them a challenge from their past. Something to overcome. A way for them to grow.
Quirks and Imperfections.
Main characters don't have to be physically perfect. Nor do they have to act perfect all the time. A quirk or physical imperfection can endear a reader and give them something to relate to.
Another great way to add dimension, depth, and definitely some juicy conflict is to create main characters that conflict with other characters. Different beliefs or ways to handle situations, or different personalities.
Create the beginning from the end.
Appealing characters are characters that can grown, learn, and change to become better people. So if you know where you want your characters to be (spiritually, emotionally, etc.) by the end of the story, try to place your main character far from that at the beginning of the story.
All right, so maybe you don't have to go as far to give your characters obsessions. But tossing in an interesting hobby or unusual way of doing things (even a quirk like mentioned above) gives readers one more thing to draw them to your character.
Using one or a few of these has made my characters imperfect but also more relatable, which is a great goal. And on the other end, it doesn't hurt to give characters those few redeeming characteristics. A relatable character makes for a sympathetic reader which is exactly what you want.
What are tricks you use to give characters depth and make them appeal, in less than perfect ways, to your reader?