The Monday Muse ~ Really Useful Writing Tips
Creating Believable Characters
Knowing your characters inside out is very important. As without actually knowing them, how can you possibly portray a convincing and accurate portrayal of them in your novel? It’s just not going to happen. If you don’t know them, what chance does your reader have of understanding them, or their motives? The last thing you want is a novel full of characters with fewer dimensions than a cardboard cut-out.
There are a few ways around this particular conundrum and I’m going to give you two here, any more than that and I think it all gets just too confusing and I really hate being confused.
The first and most fun way is to do an imaginary interview, with you answering as the character. It’s such a simple and effective tool to get an insight into your creations. Below I've listed a few questions that I used for my character Scarlett Paige from my YA PNR novel ‘Scarlett Phoenix’ so without beating about the bush we’ll dive right in.
I called the interview ‘19 Questions with Scarlett Paige’ you can read the full interview by clicking the link:
1. Hi [insert name here], could you tell us when and where you were born?
2. Who do you look like? Your mother, father, or someone else?
3. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
4. Did you or do you know your grandparents?
5. Is anyone in your family famous?
6. What do you like to drink?
7. Are you a morning person?
8. What are your hobbies or interests?
9. What's your favourite food?
10. Nervous or calm?
11. Teacher or student?
12. Leader or follower?
13. Brave or fearful?
14. Religious or superstitious?
15. Tall or short?
16. Long hair or short?
17. Introvert or extrovert?
18. Grunge or Glam?
19. Do you have any pets?
This is an entertaining and easy way to: a). Get to know your characters better and b). Create content for future blog posts and guest posts.
With this method you are actually getting two for the price of one. Plus you can do the same with all your main characters and supporting characters too. Just mix up the questions a little, obviously don’t repeat the same interview with every character otherwise it has the potentiality to produce a mind-numbing and decidedly dull result, which happens to be the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve, which is this: engaging, life-like characters with flaws and imperfections just like real life but in the same token having traits that we mere mortals don’t possess and other wonderful idiosyncrasies that are just not a part of real life or similar, depending on the actual genre you’re writing.
If you like this method make up your own interview, don’t just copy mine, as my interviews are unique to my characters.
Now, let’s move on to the second way to delve deeper into your characters psyche, and learn all the little secrets, foibles and machinations. This is also a very simple method, just use a list of questions similar to what I've presented below to learn everything you can about your characters. This way works for everyone whether they are the villain/s, the best friend, the love interest and including the supporting cast too. Remember minor characters need personalities too (even if you do kill them off after one page!)
I know that some of the questions may appear beyond obvious, however sometimes we fail to see the obvious (even when it’s biting our noses off) and this can lead to weak characters, which is the last thing any writer wants.
· Name and/or nickname? How they got the nickname?
· Height, weight, frame build, posture & movement?
· Skin colour/type?
· Hair colour or tint? Length? Style? Wavy, straight, short, curly, afro, spiky, frizzy, shaved, etc..?
· Eye colour? Eyebrows - heavy, bushy, thick, monobrow, surprised brows, thin, wispy, arched?
· Birth marks or distinguishing features, if any?
· Any disabilities, seen or unseen?
· Any specific facial mannerisms, expressions when happy, sad, upset, angry, tearful, in love, anxious?
· Voice & speech? Tone, pitch, deep, guttural, soft, quiet, stammer, loud, brash (Smooth as silk or as rough as a badgers arse!)
· Verbal expressions and animations? Favourite slang terminology and repeated sayings unique to them. Are they animated or not when speaking? Hand waving, gesturing, or subdued and retrospective, shy, inanimate, etc…
· Clothing? How do they dress? Any quirky accessories? Unique style or herd mentality?
· Tattoos and /or piercings?
· Emotions? How do they react to situations? Hot-headed or cool calm and collected, nervous, anxious, scared, brave, pretend bravado, etc… When the emotion is provoked by another? Hate, love, unease, happiness, content, calm etc…
· Sheep or Shepherd? Follow the herd or lead the herd?
· Common-sense/intelligence? Dumber, dumb, average, clever, genius, Einstein, Hawkins
· Fundamental Personality? Controlling, easy going, rebellious, difficult, bad tempered, ambitious, etc…
· Defining/other qualities? Sensitive/empathy, judgmental, imaginative, poise/grace, attentiveness, etc…
· General Attitude? Relaxed, nervous, happy, sad, grumpy, etc…
· What do they like or dislike about themselves? Including dominant traits and/or eccentricities?
· Hidden character traits? Complexities? Frustrations? Emotional traumas and/or baggage?
· Are they comfortable in their own skin or do they have hang-ups? If so, what are they?
· How are they perceived by the other characters in the novel? And vice versa?
· Winner or loser?
· Any special skill or abilities?
· Who are their friends? Family? Lovers? Girl or boyfriends? Co-workers?
· Jobs? Hobbies? Interests? Goals? Ambitions? Passions? Pet hates?
· Morals and ethics? Religion? Political views?
· Lifestyle? Rich? Poor? Middle Class? Undefined?
· Any defining/life changing moments? Important memories or moments? Game changers?
As you can see, the list could go on and on and on. How long, is entirely up to you, just remember: the deeper you go the better you know. Answering a questionnaire like this gives you a profound knowledge of your character and will ultimately make them seem real to your readers, even if you don’t actually impart all the information you've acquired by this exercise.
I wish you the best of luck creating and crafting your characters and if you feel that this still isn't enough to bring your characters into full being. Write a brief essay about them, a story before the real story begins. Whatever you do to realise your characters into existence prior to writing your novel will serve you greatly in the grand scheme of things and help give your novel depth and authenticity.
Thanks for stopping by and I hope you've enjoyed the post. If you want to add anything you think I may have left out, which is highly possible! Feel free to leave a comment or if you want to ask anything regarding this post, I’ll do my best to answer your queries.
Keep calm and keep on writing!