How to Make Your Characters Believable
by Rebecca Ethington
Have you ever sat in a coffee shop, a restaurant, or even at the mall and watched people? I do it all the time and it drives my family crazy, but there is one reason I do. I love watching people. I love to dissect their actions, the inflictions of their voice. I watch the way he holds his cups, the way she no longer wears a wedding ring, the way the child shies away from her brother. Each of these people, are just that, people. And in the way they hold cups, kiss lovers, and beat up their brothers tells a story about who they are, and why they do what they do.
They have pasts, and stories, and emotions that dictate each of their actions and their thoughts. And, what’s great about it is that everyone is different, and they do things for different reasons.
The same is true for characters in a story. They speak different, think different, and move different. They have different pasts, and futures, and moods, and shadows. And by bringing all of these together you are creating an amazing unique character they people can relate to.
The cornerstone to any good book is its characters. If all the characters are the same, or if a characters actions don’t properly reflect that characters personality, chances are high that your reader will quickly lose interest in your story. Readers want to read about characters they can relate to – be honest you know you do.
I love to create these characters.
Years of people watching and onstage performances have given me a gambit of characters to choose from, or to blend together into a person that is truly believable.
But before I even start to write about these characters, I construct a very in depth character study. This is something that is very common in theatre, as a way for actors to be able to understand the person they are about to play, and they are actually quite simple to do. I start by writing every visible fact about a character, their hair and eye color, height, full name, birthday. That’s the simple stuff. After that I write an abbreviated history. I want to know where the character has come from, how different histories have made them feel, and affected them, and by writing their history I don’t only get to know who they were, but also who they have become. I get to see what motivates them, and drives them.
Next, I write a current scenario. What they hate, like, love and why. And last, with all of this information in mind, I write a plot of the book in their eyes. I go through each plot point from their point of view (even if the book isn’t told that way) and dig into how each thing makes them feel.
Now, you are probably wondering why I go through all of that. Well, the truth is, I love to do it. It helps me crawl inside my characters and feel who they are, and best of all sometimes doing that helps me to develop plot twists that you wouldn’t see coming even if you tired.
I bet there is a few in Eyes of Ember that will catch you off guard.
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Genre – YA Paranormal
Rating – PG
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