Hello guys, today Elizabeth Sharp will be joining us for a guest post. She will give advice on how to make your characters believable, this is a must-read for all aspiring writers out there. Also, don’t forget to check her books, The Forces of Nature series.
How to Make Your Characters Believable
As a character-centric reader, the most important thing to me in writing is making my characters real. You can have the most amazing plot in the world, but if I can’t relate to your protagonist, I’m done. Considering the world exists inside someone else’s head, as does the character, it’s hard to make them real. On top of that, you have to juggle multiple personalities, all with their own unique quirks and speech patterns. This is not a small task.
Put a little bit of yourself into the character.
The easiest way to give your character a dose of reality is by using yourself as a model. You know how you would react in a given situation, so using that couldn’t be easier. And you don’t have to use all or nothing, making each character a carbon copy of yourself. You can isolate the part of your personality that fits an individual character and use that.
I have led a life full of challenges, just like everyone else on this planet. I use my past to help me relate to my characters, and flesh out their experiences. The best example of this is a total spoiler, so read on at your own discretion.
When Amelia realizes the person responsible for the horrific murders is closer to home than she knew, her thought process came from my experience having my identity stolen by a supposed friend. She ran up over a thousand dollars in bills in my name, while still calling herself my friend. I felt betrayed and like I had no idea who I could trust. And I loaned that moment of betrayal to Amelia.
Watch other people
I’m a major people watcher. I like to sit in a back corner where I can see as much of a room as possible. I watch people interact, catalog their fidgeting, note their reactions. Sometimes I’ll even steal physical features that work.
The downside of this characteristic is that I am not 100% present in any given moment. I have in the past asked someone to hold a thought while I scribbled down what they had said to me. I have even been accused of creating drama just so I can catalog it by a friend. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but I have certainly channeled some of my real life experiences into my characters.
There is one word of caution here though—when using real people who are actively in your life, make sure if they recognize themselves within your character that it won’t negatively impact you’re relationships. (Ie, don’t make your psychopathic antagonist into a carbon copy of your mother-in-law and expect to be comfortable come Christmas time. No, I didn’t so this.)
The most notable case of this for me was the fact that initial design of Amelia was taken from my best friend, Tori. There are many aspects of Amelia in her, and I certainly hope she is happy with the character I created using some of her quirks.
Look at similar characters
I’m not advising you to steal someone else’s character, give a facelift and slap on a new name. I’m more suggesting looking at a model while creating your masterpiece. Sometimes it’s easier for an artist to work from a drawing rather than a real person when creating a masterpiece. Just make sure that the character you choose to use as the bones of your own has the necessary framework to support your modification.
Just to clear up any confusion, here’s an example from the Forces of Nature series.
Character: Fernando (vampire)
Model: Syler (Heroes)
Syler is a predator and he doesn’t beat himself up about it—he revels in it. He takes what he feels he needs not out of any outward cruelty, but out of the need to acquire something he feels he is entitled to. He has a certain humanity in him, and accepts the darker side of himself.
Fernando is a predator and he’s ok with that. He feeds with pleasure—not because he likes hurting people, but because he enjoys feeding. He is a generally tender man with a violent side and he accepts both sides of himself.
Now I know the character of Syler changes throughout the series and there’s more to him than my brief sketch, but this was the part I specifically needed for my character, so I grafted the two together. I think bits of the original character show, but they are molded within my unique character so it works.
Elizabeth has a near crippling Facebook addiction, dwarfed only by her need for Dr. Pepper. A self-proclaimed techno geek, she loves cell phones, computers, tablets and all things technological. The internet has to be the greatest invention since the wheel, in her opinion. She lives in a quiet subdivision with her husband, one-year-old son, three cats, and far too many electronics. It’s quite possible she has some raccoon in her DNA, because she loves glitter and anything that sparkles. She enjoys making jewelry and costumes. Halloween is her favorite holiday since it’s the one day of the year that you can be whatever you want. But her first love will always be writing. Otherwise, hearing voices in her head would make her feel schizophrenic.
– This is a tour-wide giveaway
– Click the link below to join