Tips for Newbies: Making Your Characters Believable

What do you do to make your characters three-dimensional, so they seem real to the reader?  One key is to think about the characters’ lives BEFORE they enter your plotline.  Sure,  every author comes up with names and physical descriptions, but you need to go beyond that.

What do your characters do for a living? Think how your plot might affect their job, their normal schedule. Are they night owls or early risers? Think about how they spend their leisure time — whether they have hobbies, or belong to any clubs or civic organizations. Think about their health, and whether they have an exercise program or sports activities. Do they take any medications? vitamins? Think about where they shop, what sorts of foods they like to eat, whether they cook for themselves or not, what pet peeves they have, whether they take a daily newspaper. Filling in a lot of little details about their lives helps make the characters real for YOU, so you can make them real for your reader.

Think about your characters’ personal style, in clothing, in decorating their living space, or their work space, if applicable. Are they neat freaks or clutter bugs? Do they have pets? houseplants? Do they recycle?  Give them a vehicle that helps reflect their personality traits.  Think about how they use technology, whether they are Mac people or PC people or total Luddites.     

If your characters enjoy listening to music, describe what type of music. Think about whether they pick vinyl, CDs, or ipods, or just go with whatever is on the radio. Is there a type of music they don’t like? Think about how they’d react to telemarketing calls, and whether they are good tippers. What are their favorite TV shows — sitcoms, documentaries, cooking shows? Do they read? If so, who are their favorite authors? Think about giving your villain a soft spot, and giving your hero an annoying trait. Don’t make your characters perfect, make them REAL.

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3 Responses to Tips for Newbies: Making Your Characters Believable

  1. nicole dunlap says:

    This really helps make the characters 3diminsional. Thanks

  2. Good stuff Betsy! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Redfizz says:

    Really great suggestions that I had never considered before.