by Yen Cabag
When we read a novel, we want a story that grips us, and characters that feel so real they’re almost our friends—or enemies, as the case may be. And when we turn the last page, we feel an almost bittersweet parting because we had been so involved in their lives for the last three hundred pages.
But believable characters don’t just walk onto a page all by themselves, even if that’s what it feels like sometimes. As a writer, you have the power of creating three-dimensional characters that your readers can relate to from the very first time they meet, and follow their journey all the way to the last page.
How to Create Believable Characters
So when you start to write a book, here are some tips to help you create characters that are so real, they become a part of your readers’ lives:
1. Be meticulous about their backstory.
Some writers shy away from creating backstory because they think it’s unnecessary or bogs down the narrative. But knowing what makes your characters tick is crucial for making them come to life both for you and for your readers.
Explore your character’s past experiences, especially things that make a deep impression on him. From there, you will find logical responses that you won’t have to invent but just automatically springs up as you write that character out.
One of the most important things you need to decide from the get-go is what drives your character. What are his fears, dreams, ambitions? What’s hindering him from achieving those goals? What is a lie that he believes about himself or about the world that’s keeping him from all he wants in life? And how does he need to change in the process?
2. Give them strengths and weaknesses.
There’s nothing more boring than a character who’s always predictably good or always predictably evil. After all, in real life, people always have different facets to their personality, and no one is strictly black or white.
3. Explore colloquialism and other nuances in your characters’ language.
One way of creating characters that live on in your readers’ minds is by giving them a distinct voice. Is one of your characters from the South?
4. Show your reader how your character responds.
A piece of common advice for writers is, “Show, don’t tell.” This is an even more crucial tip when it comes to character development.
Creating Compelling Characters
In the end, look at creating memorable characters is like making new friends: when you get to know your friends, you see aspects of them that you don’t always observe from your first acquaintance. Add layers to your characters’ lives, and they will become clearly more interesting people to know and remember way after the story ends.