How to Make Your Characters Believable
I believe the number one thing that will make fictional characters believable and enable them to come alive on the page is the ability to picture them as real, living human beings. This means you should be able to imagine what they look like and how they dress, but that’s not nearly enough. To truly see them and know them, you should also be able to imagine their facial expressions, for example, how their lips curl into a smile, how they frown and whether dimples form in their cheeks when they laugh. Yet that’s still only the tip of the iceberg, since it only covers their external side.
Internally, I think the most important thing when it comes to writing believable characters is their nature, namely are they loving, aggressive, driven or passive. This ties directly into their goal in the story, as the ways they choose to achieve their goal will inevitably make their traits come to the surface. This is why it is important to know all their traits, even the ones they choose to keep secret.
Ideally, you should know at least some of these traits before beginning to write. Though if you’re more of a seat of the pants writer, you probably prefer to let the characters reveal themselves during the course of the story without you forcing any characteristic on them. But when you do the final revision, you should take care to bring all of their various traits into a logical whole.
One neat trick I recently discovered for matching up mannerisms with emotions or situations is observing actors in movies. Since you know what emotion they are going through (which may not always be the case when simply people watching) it is easier to come up with ideas of how to describe a character that is nervous, in love, sad, angry or happy.
The advice “Show Don’t Tell” applies to characters as well, and to make them as life-like as you can, it is always better to show their emotions, thoughts or actions, rather than just explaining how they feel.
For my latest book, The Grower’s Gift, I had a good grasp of the main male character Ty before I started writing, but my main heroine Maya developed more gradually during the course of the story. Although, by the time I finished the book, I got to know both of them as well as I know some of my oldest friends.
The future is bleak in the year 2102. The planet is in chaos and the weather patterns have completely shifted, turning most of the world into an uninhabited wasteland.
The rich and powerful of North America have pulled back into the six remaining megacities, erasing all trace of a central government and leaving millions displaced by the environmental crisis to fend for themselves in the dying world.
Sixteen-year-old Maya has a gift, a power she thinks can heal the earth and make it habitable again. A gift that she must learn to harness. The school for the gifted in Neo York is the only place where she can learn to control her power and reach her potential.
Yet the school is not what it seems. Ran by the ruthless head of the city of Neo York, the school’s only objective is to extract the powers of the gifted and then discard them. Only Ty, heir to the city, can keep Maya from being destroyed there. But Ty has a secret, and his loyalty to his family has never wavered.
Will his growing love for Maya be strong enough to save them both?
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Genre - YA Dystopian
Rating – PG-13
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