Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I want to believe

I don't know about you but when I'm watching a movie or reading a book I want to believe in the characters. I don't want a cardboard cutout of a mom or a demon. I want the real thing. I want to believe that they're real and if I don't I'm probably not going to enjoy the story as much as the author hoped I would. So how do we as writers create believable characters?

One way is to have our characters react, either through thought, dialogue, or action. For an example, let's use Sarah, a junior at the local high school.

Sarah turned abruptly at the sound of her name, eying the boy who had addressed her. He didn't look familiar. She sighed, supposing she would have to ask his name, even if she didn't really want to know.


"Excuse me, and you are?"


"Josh Robbins, I'm in your second period study hall."


"So?" 


"I was, ah, hoping you might -"


She cut him off. "Forget it," she said, flipping her hair and walking away. As if.


Now, granted, this isn't the best example (since I just made it up!), but you can see how a few thoughts, some words, and a bit of action tell you a lot about Sarah in just a few sentences. This is how to build characters and make them real. And this is how to make your readers believe.

How do you make your characters real?

31 comments:

  1. I think it's easier to make the POV character "real" because you give the reader access to that character's whole experience, all his/her inner thoughts and emotions, memories, etc. What's always harder (for me, at least) is the secondary characters, where we only have the visual and audible and can't give the reader access to what's going on inside those SCs' skulls.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you/we just have to make the most of those visuals and dialogue.

      Delete
  2. I like your example -- good advice. And even the non-POV characters can reveal a lot through action and dialogue. With my characters, the more I write about them, the realer they become.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I totally agree with your last sentence.

      Delete
  3. Awww love your example! Poor Josh! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ah, my example worked if you thought Josh was poor :)

      Delete
  4. I'm with Sarah. It's more challenging to make the secondary characters real because the reader might not know the character's motivations.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree with your post. You need to make your readers believe in your characters and by showing their words and actions is the best way to do it. I love your example.

    ReplyDelete
  6. For me, it's all about finding the character's distinct voice~ nuances and phrases that make them unique. It's generally easier to develop that in 1st person, but I'm going back to 3rd for my next WIP, so I'll have to keep an eye on my dialogue, etc....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, voice is definitely a part of making characters real.

      Delete
  7. i sometimes base them on real people or some sort of variation--if totally fictional, then i just go on my own feelings-

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've done that before, taking certain parts of someone real and incorporating those parts into my character.

      Delete
  8. Still working on that...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. practice. That's what helps me.

      Delete
  9. Great example and very well done!..:)JP

    ReplyDelete
  10. Putting in emotions and inner thoughts is definitely something I'm working on. Thanks for the post.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Making them flawed. =) Great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's an excellent way to make characters real, Elizabeth,

      Delete
  12. Great example! I try to put in actions I know...pulling a hang nail, jiggling a leg...examining a hair...things we all do in real life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, me too; those little character traits definitely make characters seem more like real people.

      Delete
  13. great dialog! i could picture them.
    i try to put myself in the scene and imagine how the characters would act...what senses they would feel, etc

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks Tara :) And that's another good way to bring characters and scenes to life.

      Delete
  14. Contrary to some of the people who posted, I LOVE bringing the secondary characters to life -- precisely because we don't have their POV. After all, in real life we can't see inside people's heads, but we still guess what they're thinking and feeling. We try to figure out what motivates them. And sometimes we're wrong. I love it when my POV character discovers he/she was wrong about a secondary character!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. and you're pretty good at it, too, I might add.

      Delete
  15. I love the challenge of secondary characters and pay them an equal amount of attention. Like in life, first impressions go a long way! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. secondary characters can be fun, but definitely challenging since we often don't know them as well as our main characters.

      Delete

If you're interested in my blog I'm interested in your comments.