Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lying About People: Developing Fictional Characters

Character development is one of the main keys to writing a successful novel. If your characters are not believable and well rounded, your readers will not be able to keep their interest in your story. This is true whether your story is plot or character driven. It is vitally important for character driven stories.
There are many ways to create a believable character that your readers will either love, or love to hate. Likeability is an important part of character development, as well as motivation. If you can combine the two, you will be able to create characters that are real and three dimensional. That is the secret to success as a novelist.
First, create a backstory for every character in your book, no matter how insignificant they may be to the story. This will help you develop their motivation or why they do what they do and why they are the way that they are. Everyone has a story, and it is important to take the time to develop each character's personal story.
Next, you can develop a personality profile for your characters. How do they react under pressure? What little things do they do that make them real? One of the biggest mistakes a writer can make is creating two dimension characters that have no personality quirks. While you do not want to go overboard with this, it is important to make each character an individual in their own right.
Your characters are people – real people – even if their lives are confined to the pages of your book. By looking at it in this way you will be able to create a story that is compelling, believable, and most importantly, highly readable. By going into your story with this mindset, you will be creating a book that will be read and this is the best goal a novelist can have.


  1. Good advice, and if it seems daunting, I've found that you don't have to do this all before you write the book. I've had success with broad character background sketches which are filled in as the plot evolves (yeah, I don't plot in advance either!) and the "why would he do that?" questions arise.

    End result is the same; the timing varies with each writer's method of getting from Page 1 to The End.

  2. I get stuck with imaginary people, I always need to start with some resemblance to a real character and then just make all the changes. My next protagonist is a 12yr. old boy and I have girls in my house, so when I picked them up today I found myself watching the kids leaving school thinking - could he be like that kid? I need to exercise my imagination more. Thanks for getting me thinking. :-)

  3. For me the most affective method is to become that character. That way I can figure out all of the back information. To me, every one of my characters is real, no matter how insignigicant. Names for them is also something I take very seriously, but can be fun. I try to find a name that sounds nice, yet also has a meaning that fits the personality of the character. I cannot remember where I heard this but it was: you are only as good as what you know. Which to me means that every person in my books relate to someone that i knew or know. It could be multiple people, but they are all based off of something that I know about.


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