When critics and audiences criticize a female character they usually say "She’s just a love interest." But what does that mean in the broad scheme of things? Is it possible to be a love interest and a fully realized character?
Perhaps it is the difference between "getting the girl," or someone who is "just there" to meet the needs of the protagonist. To me, a fully realized character is one that has many layers and feels like a real person (such as Peggy in Mad Men). A love interest would be someone that we may know about, but we do not truly know a lot about-- enough to make them real in our minds. – Nicole Wethington6 years ago
I think a good example of this can be found in Jo from Supernatural. Dean has plenty of love interests who never develop into REAL characters (such as that woman he had a kid with [see! I don't even know her name and she has been in multiple episodes]) but Jo is odd... on the borderline. I've never met someone who thought of her as a favourite character although she is in quite a few plot oriented episodes. We don't learn much about her so is that the problem with her popularity or is her backstory and personality just overshadowed by her and Dean's "potential" (which never gets actualized but adds a lot of romantic suspense). – Slaidey6 years ago
Brandon Sanderson discusses this in his lectures on character creations. He mentions that the problem a lot of new writers have is designing categories for people to fit into. In order to be a fully realized character, one has to create a character before placing them into a mold. If they are just designed to be the love interest, it can feel forced. – missmichelle6 years ago