Writing Wednesday: Your Checklist for Building Believable Characters

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An interesting plot may entice someone to pick up your book, but it’s the characters you create that will keep readers coming back for more. A character is the reader’s connection to the storyline: the eyes and ears through which one can experience the action as it unfolds. If your characters are unrelatable, no plotline – no matter how potentially thrilling – will be enough to make an emotional and memorable impact.

□ Let them be flawed

Nobody is perfect. That’s why all superheroes have their kryptonite.

□ Give them clear opinions and preferences

This will show consistency in the characters’ decisions throughout the tale.

□ Let some history be unsaid

You don’t need to spell out a character’s backstory completely, but leave hints that imply where and what they came from.

□ Allow room for growth

Some character traits remain static, but everyone’s personality and outlook develops over time.

□ Put them through torture

A great character development exercise that lets you find out how they would react in whatever is their own personal version of hell.

□ Actually experience what they do

Understanding firsthand how a person would react in a certain situation, or actually getting to appreciate and use the nuances of a regional dialect, will add richness and realism to your writing.

□ Introduce your characters naturally

When you first meet a person, what do you notice? Do you immediately understand their job and how they feel about their family? No, you see whether they fidget with their watch, stand with their hands in their pockets or speak with a lisp. These small details will go further in building a believable character than any inserted narrative exposition.

□ Remember the details

If you say in your opening chapter that your main character was born in the summertime, then you had better remember that hundreds of pages later before you speak to their “Sagittarius nature.” Just as you would with plot points, write down key character facts as you establish them.PB_BlackFriday_Kafka

For more advice on developing great characters, check out this Writing Wednesday guest post with Andrea Marvan!

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