One of the hardest things I come across when writing is building believable characters. And when it comes down to it, it’s not the character you think I’d have the most trouble with.
No, the main character I have covered. It’s all the external ones that seem to cause me some inner turmoil!
I write in first person, so it’s easy for me to get lost inside my own character’s head. It’s kind of a self-indulgent thing, I guess. I want to get across as much as I possibly can about the main character that the surrounding ones might seem somewhat flat in places.
So how can we combat this as writers?
How to create believable characters in fiction
Well, I think you need to take the time to really get inside the head of everyone in your book. Whether that means spending the afternoon thinking like the character you’re working on, or perhaps sitting around and questioning your character’s motives; it can all help.
For example, it might be useful to ask why your character acted that way when in that situation they were in. Does it make sense for them to do that? Would an actual human react in this way? In short, is it something someone reading would believe in because it seems like a real response?
All these questions can help you to round your characters off more.
Another good idea is to do a thought cloud or personality profile for your character. I don’t always do this, but I do sometimes if I feel a need to focus in and build a more consistent personality for those characters circling my protagonist.
But considering I’m better at creating a believable main character, then maybe I should offer advice on that to you.
How to develop your main character in a book
First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re consistent. If your character claims to be lazy during the first chapter yet is going out for a jog in chapter eight, this just won’t do.
And sadly this is only something you’ll probably pick up on during the redrafting stage. It’s easy to make inconsistent mistakes like this when you’re working on something for months or years – how are you supposed to remember every single word you wrote in January when it’s April?
You just can’t.
So to make sure you main character makes sense and has a personality that fits throughout the entire book, be sure to redraft time and time again.
Know your character’s motives
Just like you need to question minor character motives, you also need to question the main one’s too.
But don’t worry, you’ll know if the reaction doesn’t fit the situation deep down – trust me. You’ll get that nagging feeling that tells you that maybe you can get away with it because it’s easier to not take it out (we’ve all been there). But it’s always best to remove something if you don’t feel like it fits, or if it continues to play on your mind long after you’ve written it.
You’ll feel happier about it in the end despite the work it might create – I’ve learnt this from experience!
There is, of course, more you can to develop your main character and we’ll look at this in a little more detail in a later post.
But for now, what do you do to create rounded characters? Do you have any advice that you’d like to share?
Leave a comment below – the world needs your expertise too!