Crafting Believable Characters

Introduction: Crafting Believable Characters

We all have characters from our favorite books that have stuck with us forever. But why do we vividly remember some characters for a lifetime and completely forget others only pages after introduction? By reading this, you will gain insight into why you love your favorite characters and how you can craft your own characters that others will love in turn.

Supplies

Just your imagination and some way to write down ideas!

Step 1: We All Have a Story

Everyone has a history, your characters should too! By giving your characters a rich history you not only provide background information for your reader on that character, but insight into their motivations and why they choose to act how they do throughout your story.

Step 2: What's in a Name?

There is power in a name, as well as in a purposeful lack of a name. Your character's name will say something about them to the reader, setting up expectations. It is up to you whether to confirm or subvert those expectations, either way it makes a statement about who that character is.

Step 3: Nobody's Perfect

It's easy to forget when creating a protagonist especially that human beings are fundamentally flawed, and even if your character isn't technically a human, flawed characters are more believable. No one can relate to someone who is perfect, because no one is perfect. Flaws create tension as well, giving believable reasons for action and inaction for your characters.

Step 4: Who Are You?

Beyond history, characters must also be given their own identity. Consider what you believe to be important aspects of your identity, be it your race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, personal interests, etc, and make sure you can describe your characters in the same way. Physical description will aid in this, allowing your reader to visualize your character, but further investigation of their identity will allow readers to understand them more. A clear sense of identity for your character will also make how they interact with your world more clear to you during writing.

Step 5: Don't Fall for Traps!

It's easy to create a character that just fits in a situation and has no other purpose. It is also easy to write a character that falls into tropes and stereotypes. By actively being aware of these pitfalls though, you will write complex and unique characters that will last far longer in the minds of your readers. Ask yourself if this character you are writing reminds you of another character you've seen before, and if it does try to figure out what elements are similar and what you could change to make the character truly yours.

Step 6: It Shouldn't Be Easy

Your character should suffer and fail on their way to reaching their goals. Similar to creating a perfect person, a character that does not struggle to find success is unbelievable to begin with. These struggles and failures also show and define growth in your characters, as well as creating both internal and external conflict for your story. Readers feel for someone who has struggled, and the eventual payoff of success feels earned if the character struggled and failed along the way.

Step 7: The Power of Belief

You should give your character something to believe in. Belief inspires a sense of purpose in your character and will help dictate their actions throughout the story. Some sort of set of principles, be they what we might consider moral or objectively corrupted, gives your reader further insight and understanding with your character and allows the reader to better understand the decisions made by your character. Belief too is often more powerful than logic, making it understandable how your character would make a decision that may be seen as the logically incorrect response to a situation.

Step 8: This Is the Voice!

Find your characters voice. No two people speak exactly the same in real life, and no one will believe your characters if they all seem to have the same voice. Take your time and think about the history you have crafted for this character, think about their level of education, where they were raised, what sort of interests they have, etc. All of these factors and more go into creating a person's unique voice, find your character's. This will make your character more interesting and increase memorability.

Step 9: Embrace Change

People change throughout their life. I'm sure you wouldn't say you're exactly the same person that you were five years ago. I know I wouldn't! Your characters too should change throughout your story. They should grow and evolve with the world and situation they find themselves in. A character that doesn't progress and change throughout the story is not only less believable, but downright boring.

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