Creating fictional characters that seem real can be tough. Many try and many end up with flat, unrealistic characters. However, with some simple tips, you can create your own character that has depth and believability.
Identify Your Character
The first step in creating characters is having a character to create. You probably already have some idea in your head. You may only have a name, or you might only have a physical description; whatever it is, write down what you already know about your character. Right now, for example, I’m thinking of a girl. I don’t know anything else about her, yet. This is fine – even if you don’t know character traits at first, you can still write strong characters.
Figure Out the Details
So far, I know my character is a female. You already know something about the character you are creating. Now we need to create some basic character traits. What I consider to be a basic character trait are the things that are most obvious about your character – physical appearance, how he or she is perceived by others, and a name. There is no realistic way to create your own character if you don’t even know these things. How you do this is you picture your character as if you are meeting him or her for the first time. How does he or she introduce himself? How does he or she react to meeting you? What else do you notice?
What I notice about my character is that she’s young – perhaps in her late teens or early twenties. She’s of average height, has creamy white skin that’s sprinkled with some freckles. She has soft, curly blonde hair and green eyes. She’s a bit shy, but very friendly. Her name is Miranda, but she doesn’t like it and prefers to go by Mindy.
These are just the basics you need to create your own character. You may think you know a lot about a character you just conceptualized, but there is still work to be done.
Discover the Back Story
An important step in building better characters is getting inside the character’s head. You might know more about your character now than you do the neighborhood butcher, but it’s not enough. What are your character’s goals? His or her dreams? Who are your character’s parents? Siblings? How do they feel about their family? What’s important to him or her? What are some memories that really stick with them? How do they feel about certain people? How do they feel about organized religion?
You may be thinking, “Wait a minute – not all of that is going to be used in my story!” You should still know it. Knowing how a character ticks helps you learn how a character will react in a story to certain situations, and even certain people. Your character’s experiences will add depth.
What you can do is create a character profile sheet. You can write them out on your own, writing down the character traits you already know and coming up with as much back story as you can think of, or you can get a template that you can fill in for each character. I need to do more work with Mindy, but so far I know her parents are doctors, and they disapprove of Mindy’s dream to star in a Broadway musical. This, and her lack of self-confidence, has always made her too scared to even try.
Repeat the Process
It would be a very boring story if Mindy were the only character in it! There are other characters in your story as well, and now that you are learning to write strong characters, you should be able to make them all realistic. Repeat the entire process for important characters, though you can cheat it a bit for less important characters. We all care that Mindy’s parents disapprove of her life choices, but if her mail man only shows up once to say hi, we don’t need to know that all he really wanted to do was dance unless it somehow advances the plot.
Fictional Characters are Real
Now that you have created your own character, don’t micromanage his or her life. Part of being a realistic character is letting them make choices that you didn’t see coming. I know, it sounds crazy. Visualize your characters as you write them, and instead of writing down something and then they do it, let them do it and then write it down. It might do some crazy things to your plot, but it’s really hard to call a character “flat” when he or she is the one calling the shots.
Following these steps, you can write strong characters that seem real.