How to Create Believable Characters for Your Book

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In my post about How to Start Writing I wrote about the Five Elements of Story (Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Theme). As you can probably tell by the title of this blog post, I’ll be helping you develop your own characters. Because every story need characters and every good story needs believable characters. And here are my suggestions on creating believable characters for you book:

1. Keep Characters Real and Relatable:

When you are building a character, especially in the fantasy genre, you want to give them a little extra edge. For example: you give them a super power where they can shoot gamma rays from their eyeballs. Does this mean that the character is now not real? No, it means that now you have to make them seem real. When I saw “keep them real” what I mean is that they have to act like a real person. Every person has strengths and weaknesses, so do your characters. Even if your character has several super powers, they are still a person, and so they have to act like one.

Keeping them real and making them relatable are similar, but not quite the same. You can make a real person-like character with gamma ray shooting eyeballs that can be unrelatable. When your character has a special feature like gamma eyes, you need to work harder at making them relatable. Relatability is related with the emotions and personality of your character. If gamma ray boy accidentally shot his high school sweetheart with his eyes, how would he react. This is where writers write an emotional scene, but sometimes they become under-emotion, or over emotional.

Example 1: Under Emotional

Gord (our character with gamma ray shooting eyes) stood beside his girlfriend’s body. He stared at it with a frown. He knelt down and tried to wake her.

“Emma, are you okay?” he asked.

She gave no response.

“I’m going to call 911,” he said and pulled out his cellphone.

(and continues on like that)

Example 2: Over Emotional

Gord fell to his knees as tears threatened to spill from his eyes. His entire body was shaking as he grabbed Emma’s body. He held her close to his chest and began to cry. He sobbed loudly.

“I’m so sorry Emma,” he sniffled, “Please wake up.”

When there was no response and he let his head drop. His shoulders shook violently, he flung his head back, and let out a ear-splitting cry.

“Nooooooooooo!!!”

Example 3: Emotional

“Emma!” Gord ran to her as she fell to the floor.

He knelt down on the floor beside her and stared at her with wide, wet eyes. He reached towards her with shaky hand and hesitated. He shook his head and placed his hand on her shoulder. He softly shook her as though we was waking her up for breakfast.

“Open your eyes Emma,” he pleaded.

He watched her eyelids, hoping that she would open them. He wanted to see her deep brown eyes stare back at him, but her eyes didn’t open.

“Oh god,” he fumbled with his cellphone and dialled 911.

Hopefully I portrayed the difference between the three scenes. In the first scene Gord seemed like a robot, while in the second scene he was melodramatic. In both scenes you don’t get much of an insight to his real emotions or feelings, you just get his reactions. In the third scene he gave a realistic response to the scenario, plus there is some insight to his real feelings for Emma and their relationship.

2. Make Sure Characters are Well-Developed 

When building a character you want to make them 3-dimensional and interesting. To do this you need to have a great understanding of your character. You need to know them like you know your best friend. You can find character templates that might help, but the trouble with those are that sometimes they go too in-depth, or not in-depth enough.

My suggestion is to get into the head of your character and interview them. You will want to know enough about their past to explain why they who they are. You’ll want to know their fears, goals, secrets, and insecurities. Remember that setting will also affect your character in some way. You should write everything down on a reference page so you can refer back to it while writing. This is basically creating your own character outline.

Please avoid using 1-dimensional archetypes or stereotypes as your main attribute to your characters. It’s fine to include them in your characters overall personality, but if you use them as the main personality, your character will come off as unoriginal.

Example: Gord is like Superman, versus, Gord would risk his life to protect Emma, like how Superman would for Lois Lane.

3. Keep Characters Consistent

If you have a deep understanding of your character, usually this isn’t a problem. However, sometimes we forget about our characters when we try to further plot. For example: Gord gets drunk and cheats on Emma. This adds drama and intensity to the story, but would you really see Gord doing that?

One way to keep consistent with your character is to have the reference page I mentioned before. Also having gone through the step of making your character well-developed, you should have a good sense of what your character would and would not do.

Sometimes we have to put our characters in a place where they don’t have a choice. This is backing them into a corner so you can change the direction of the plot. It’s a useful tactic, but remember not to use it too often. Readers like to see characters struggle, but they also like to see a character make their own choices. These situations reveal a lot about a character to the readers.

Remember, plot can’t go anywhere without characters.

Here are some helpful videos about character building:

How to Write Believable Characters (Jenna Moreci)

How to Write Believable Characters PART 2 (Jenna Moreci)

How to Create a Character Profile (Jenna Moreci)

Thank for reading,

Lalia LaRose

 

 

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