Creating Credible Characters
Originally published June 2007
Creating Credible Characters—Introduction
- Creating Credible Characters (I love alliteration!), will be about our characters (duh!): where they come from, how we get to know them, and how we get them to come to life on the page.
- Answering the question, “Where do characters come from?” is very much like answering the baby question. There’s the stork-like answer we give to non-writing friends and then there’s the full disclosure we discuss amongst fellow writers. There are no storks here (well, maybe just one).
- Now that we’ve defined where characters come from, it’s time to figure out how we get to know these characters. One of the worst things we can do in our writing is not develop our characters well. This comes either from a lack of knowledge of how to do it or not spending enough time getting to know the characters at a deeper level.
- No matter what kind of story you’re writing, your characters will have both internal and external conflict. It is how your character copes with these conflicts—how they adapt, overcome, react, or not—that will reveal the most about your character. One of the driving sources of character revelation in literature is through culture clash.
- We must go deeper. We must continue peeling the layers of the onion. This is where we move from the realm of “type”—of general characteristics—into individuality defined to specifics. It’s the “why?” behind everything your character thinks, says, does, and is.
- Our characters’ mannerisms and quirks will arise out of who they are—so as you go through the personalization process with them, be looking for things that can become something unique to help define your character for the reader.
- No matter how wonderfully complex and well-developed a character is, a reader isn’t going to care about them unless they can identify with what the character wants.
- Like naming children, this process is different for everyone. Some people come up with the name before they even have an idea for a character or for a storyline. Some people want to live with the character a while—to really, truly know who the character is—before figuring out what the name is.
Other posts about Creating Characters:
- Creating Characters–Is the Devil in the Details?
Creating Characters—What’s in a Name?
Writer-Talk Tuesday: Becoming a Profiler
When Did PLAIN Become Synonymous with UGLY?
Make POV Work for You: POV Begins with Character
Make POV Work for You: More on Character Description
Showing vs. Telling—Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Showing vs. Telling—In the Eye of the Beholder
What Do Your Heroines Do?
Cultural References in Fiction
The Age of Perception
Critical Reading: As You Read (Characters)