How many times have you thought the main characters were too flat in a story?
Do you ever find yourself imagining you could bump into your favourite character in the street because they are so realistic?
It is often the realism of the characters that makes or breaks a story, so how does a writer create a character that seems so real they become a much-loved friend?
The first thing a writer has to do is get to know their characters inside out.
A good technique is to give the character a star sign, then look up the personality traits for that star sign to give you a basis for your character’s personality.
From there you can give them a detailed history, from birth to the starting point of the story, that will also determine some of their essence.
You now have the beginnings of a character, but it is just a beginning.
A writer has to love their characters, good or bad, in order to invest them with emotion and believability.
You have to know the motivation for everything they do, and embrace it, even if it makes your skin crawl.
In this way the writer creates the sense of a real person that could climb out of the page. You have to know their likes and dislikes, their pleasures and fears, their needs and wants, and even their favourite colour.
They have to become as real to you as one of your family or friends in order to become real to your readers.
Once you get to this point, you can write an interview where you sit the character down and ask them searching questions about their life and loves.
Write the questions down first and make sure they are all about issues in your character’s life you do not already know about.
If the character’s answers don’t come to you easily, you don’t know them well enough.
At this point their voice should also emerge. The way they speak, and the words they use, should become apparent as they answer your questions.
This should be the first time their voice has gone onto the written page so you might find yourself excited, or shocked, at the way they sound.
If you don’t feel any emotion at this moment, when you are meeting your character for the first time, you might want to work on them some more.
After all, if you can’t feel anything for your characters, how are your readers going to?
One important thing to remember is that no person, real or imaginary, can ever be totally good or totally bad.
Good characters need to have flaws in their personality that they must overcome, while bad characters need to have saving graces that will make them seem human, or possibly even likeable, to your readers.
Remember, whatever role your character fills, it is vital for you to have an intimate relationship with them. Know the way they move, their mannerisms, their idiosyncrasies, their emotional triggers, every tiny intricacy of their lives.
When you know your characters this well, you will be able to add details and nuances to their passages that will make their lives seem so normal and realistic that your readers will never be able to accept they are not real people.
When your characters are as close to you as friends or family, they will also become close to your readers.
Once you have got to this stage, you can start writing your story.
If you know your character well enough, they will write their own dialogue, and their reactions in every situation will come naturally to mind.
When you love your characters and know them intimately, you will find yourself writing their scenes with a joy and ease that you never thought possible.
If your characters are your dearly loved friends, then they will become so to your readers as well.