Creating Realistic and Memorable Characters

No matter what the genre, your story is dependent on the characters who play roles in it. Creating or conveying fictional or real characters is a challenge, one that takes time and effort. You must know your characters as well as you know your closest friends in order to make them realistic to your readers.

Writing Your Characters Life Story

Although you probably won't use it all in your story, you should know everything you can about your character. Start with physical characteristics. How tall is your character? What does he or she weigh? What eye color and hair color does you character have? What's his or her ethnicity?

After ironing out physical traits, consider personality traits, such as temperament, beliefs, quirks, goals, and fears. Remember, while your character's strengths are important, don't be scared to point out his or her great weaknesses. No one is perfect and your characters shouldn't be either. If you are writing about a nonfictional character, be sure to not only include his or her accomplishments but the struggles that he or she had to overcome. Your reader should be able to empathize with your character, and flaws make him or her more human than superhero.

Take some time to consider what dialect you want your character to speak in. Does he or she use proper English or broken slang? Where did the character grow up? How much education has the character had? Even though you won't explain all of this to your reader, you will transmit it through the dialogue you write, giving your reader a clear picture of the background of your character.

Show, Don't Tell

While it may be tempting to give your reader a textbook-like description of who your character is, you must trust the reader to connect the dots. When we meet someone new for the first time, we don't learn everything about them by listening to two or three paragraphs. Instead, we watch their actions, listen to their way of speaking, learn what makes them tick. Your reader should get to know your character in the same way.

Convey the character through dialogue and actions as opposed to telling the reader what the character likes, wants, feels, etc. This allows the reader to get to know your character without being drawn away from your story. Characterization shouldn't be an interruption to the story line. It should be a natural part of your book.

Accept the Challenge

Creating characters that your readers can learn to love (or hate) is not easy. It may be hard to describe the thoughts and actions of a character with whom you have little in common. It may also be a challenge to write without bias when describing a character that you disagree with. Try to find a situation where your thoughts or actions were similar or even remotely like that of the character and go from there. For example, if you're writing about a character who has never left their hometown and you are well-traveled, you may find it difficult. But, if you think of something you're very unfamiliar with or sheltered about and apply your feelings about that situation to your character's situation, you may find it easier to write.

Creating characters takes effort and time, but the end result is well worth it.