10 Tips For Creating Realistic and Interesting Characters

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Although it's not something I usually share on my blog, I have a passion for writing stories and creating interesting plotlines and characters. These play an integral part in any novel and they are often the difference between a boring, uneventful story and a relatable and exciting one. However, characters that are realistic yet still special enough to be featured are often hard to create, and finding the perfect balance of their qualities can be difficult to come across. If you don't know where to start with creating ideal characters or are unsure what to do to improve them, I've compiled this list of tips and ideas to help you.

1. START WITH THE BASICS
When creating your characters, you need to know all of the basic but vital information about them, such as their name and age, where they live, their family members and anything else that you class as important. This will help you get a general feel for who they are before you develop them further, and your answers to these questions could affect their personality, features and appearance, so choose carefully at this point.

2. TAKE PERSONALITY QUIZZES AND FILL OUT ONLINE PROFILES
A great way to determine what your characters will be like is to take personality quizzes online, but answering them as your character. This will help you to think about things that you wouldn't have considered beforehand and can give you a much broader view of your character. I also recommend creating profiles on online websites such as Facebook and Google Plus for your characters, as they ask you a variety of questions about your life and interests when you sign up. This is really helpful for thinking about further possibilities for your characters and you can always take a look at their profile when you need inspiration. Better still, you could use this to get into character, writing statuses and comments as if you were them, as this will help you to understand and get to know your characters more.

3. ANALYSE OTHER PEOPLE
One of the most important and probably the hardest thing to achieve with characters is to make them seem realistic and human-like (unless your character isn't human, in which case you can skip this step). The best way to achieve this is to analyse people to see what common traits and habits they have. Sometimes it's these insignificant details that can make your character be less stiff and lifeless. These details are really easy to implement into your story, but will make a huge difference in the long-run.

4. PUT IN A LOT OF RESEARCH
Everytime you determine a new trait, characteristic or factor about your character, make sure you research it in depth so that you have a thorough understanding of it, especially if it's important and may affect the plot. For example, if you're character plays a sport, research possible teams in the location of the novel that they could play for, find out positions that they could play and think of a realistic training schedule for their practices. If your character has a fear or a phobia, find out what usually causes it, how extreme it can be and if it can be triggered. No matter how small or unimportant the trait is, make sure you research it fully, as it's better to have knowledge that you don't need than an inaccurate story due to lack of research.

5. STICK WITH WHAT YOU KNOW
It's a lot easier to write about events that you've experienced and topics that you are passionate about, so make sure you include these in some way. Your personal knowledge and anecdotes will make the character and story more detailed and provide depth. Think about any events or details about your life that might be worth mentioning and adapt them to fit your story, as long as you don't exaggerate them too much. This is also a lot more reliable than creating events from scratch, as they will seem much more realistic and likely to happen.

6. NARROW DOWN THE POSSIBILITIES
Once you've decided on some characteristics that you will definitely include, you can start to narrow down the possibilities. For example, if you decide that your character is a child, all of the possibilities for personality points and features that are related to adults become unnecessary, and, therefore possible plot lines will become impossible. You will start to see your character forming in front of you and it will become a lot easier to see what they're like. Keep narrowing down the possibilities until your left with the ideal character, which is easy and a much quicker way of creating them.

7. CREATING THE PERFECT MIX OF CHARACTERISTICS
Everyone has flaws, but too many flaws can seem unrealistic and forced. You want your main character, assuming that they aren't an antagonist, to be about 70% good and 30% bad. This is the perfect mix of both positive and negative characteristics to make your character seem the most believable. If you're not sure whether you have too many of one of these, sort them all into a table of good and bad and see if they are close to the numbers I listed above. To get rid of some if you have too many, think about lending them to another character, such as the main antagonist or a side character that might need more development.

8. THINK ABOUT THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
To fully understand your character and who they are now, you will need to think about both the past and the future. There might be some important past events that have shaped your character and made them become who they are in the present. Likewise, they may act differently or make certain choices based on what they want in the future and their aspirations. Thinking about these possibilities will help you gain a better understanding of your character and see how these extra details could link to their personality, appearance and other characteristics.

9. BE CONSISTENT
The most important part about creating characters is to be consistent and stick with them throughout the story. Although they can grow and develop just like people, they shouldn't drastically change throughout the events of the novel and become a person that almost isn't recognisable anymore. Also, don't add too many characteristics to your characters, as overloading them with unnecessary features will make them appear to be more forced and unrealistic.

10. ALL CHARACTERS MATTER
Your main character should be the most developed in your story, but that doesn't mean you should forget about the others. Every time a new character is introduced, the same level of depth and detail should go into creating them. Writing a good story isn't about having one character that is incredibly fleshed out and realistic with the rest being vague, but having all of your characters up to the same standard. Try to make all of your characters unique and distinguishable, as a book full of people with the exact same traits would be boring and make the reader confused.

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