How to create believable characters?

This entry was posted in Book writing,Editing,Fiction,Proofreading,Publishing,Writing Tags: , , , , , , , , , , on July 6th, 2015 by


Do you have various voices in your head, constantly talking to you or to each other? Do they have a life of their own, going through their ups and downs, having their mood swings and illogical arguments that are beyond your understanding? Do they have their own mind?

If the answer to all these questions is a strong and resounding ‘Yes’, then you definitely have a story in your head that needs to be told. All the voices in your head are the characters of the story that has been developing in your sub-conscious mind — get a pen and paper now and write down everything that you know about each of these characters and their inter-relations.

Now the question is how to make these characters believable? Even when J K Rowling was thinking about Harry Potter and the imaginary world of wizards, she had to pick up things from the real world and give them magical powers — a flying broomstick, a thinking hat and more. You need to create characters through various word-pictures, give them flesh, blood and emotions to make them three-dimensional — characters which make your readers connect to them. Here are some tips to create believable characters:

Get inspired from people around you

Most newbie writers think they would need to create characters from scratch, which requires an extremely high level of imagination, not possessed by everyone. What you do need is an eye to observe people around you – get inspired and draw character traits and quirks from people around you, creating unique characters of your own in a way that makes the source of inspiration unrecognisable.

Developing characters is like carefully drawing a picture, stroke by stroke, using different shades and moods that affect the way the painting looks. Just like how a painting changes its look and shades, depending on the lighting around it – a character changes its behaviour and mood, depending on the situation it is in and the other characters it is interacting with.

No character is all good or all bad – remember to give various shades to a character to make it more believable and fitting. If a character is positive, make sure that you give the character at least one negative trait for every two to three positive traits; the same goes for a negative character.

Give them a distinct habit

Who can forget Winnie the Pooh’s smile or Lady Macbeth’s way of rubbing her hands or the way the Queen look into the mirror? These distinct habits make the characters stand-out and leave a long-lasting impression in the reader’s mind.

Be consistent  

When you are creating a character, you should know every little detail of their personality – their favourite music, their favourite food, best friend, what irritates them the most and everything else – whether or not you use these details in your book. Have these traits written down on a separate paper and ensure that you know exactly how they would react to each situation, this will help you shape their character better and give a distinct personality to the character. Also, ensure that you never contradict these characters – if a person is extremely mature and understanding of people around them, you cannot show immature reaction without a logical explanation. The best approach for this is to create a character sketch for all your major and minor characters.

Show their conscience

Every person has had a conflict with their conscience or has been in a situation where they haven’t been able to voice their thoughts – be it because of the situation or because of something else pre-occupying their mind, show this conflict to the audience. You, as the author or the narrator should voice their inner-conflicts, either through an inner dialogue, a narration of these thoughts or a dialogue with another character.

Last words

Do your research and keep your characters as close to reality as possible so that readers can relate to them and have a reference point in their heads. Research is especially important if your character has a particular profession or requires specialist skills, specific to the profession. Is your character a dancer? If so, what form of dancing, what are the particular physical traits of a dancer, what are the personal or professional problems that a dancer goes through, how your character reacts to these problems, and more such questions need to be answered. Maybe talk to a professional dancer.

And finally, learn from the legends – a great writer is always an ardent reader. Study their characters and practice doing it on your own. The end-result will leave your characters with a distinct depth and dimension.

Not sure if your characters have all these traits? Contact our manuscript editors today for professional help, catered specially to your needs.


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