Writing believable characters is always a writer’s goal. But as the characters shift and change through the drafting process, it can be hard to know if you’ve done it right.
The first draft is always full of good intentions. But by the end, everything has shifted from an idea shape into a story shape. And sometimes that means you’ve found some plot holes or flat characters.
As drafting continues, the characters usually strengthen, but that doesn’t mean they all become believable characters. Personally, I always have at least one character that’s nearly impossible for me to identify with. And that’s the character that usually takes the most work to turn from a stock archetype to something that feels real.
Writing believable characters takes time and care, and these tips will help you create realistic characters in your fiction.
How to Write Realistic Characters
There’s no one way to write realistic characters.
(I know that everyone who has read this blog before gets so tired of me saying that there’s not one correct way. But it’s true!)
And it’s worth noting that a believable character to me may be completely unbelievable to you. I won’t get too far into this discussion, but I will say that there are a lot of writers out there who have no idea how women think.
(I am thinking specifically of this dude in some creative writing classes I took who always wrote apocalyptic horror that ended with some 15-year-old girl super stoked that she was going to get to repopulate the world with a man who was like 20 to 40 years older than her. That writer got really upset when I told him that 15-year-old girls think 35-year-old men are super old.)
Anyway, if you want to create believable characters, there are some questions you should ask yourself.
- Go through your favorite stories and and think about all the believable character examples in them. What makes them stand out to you? Is there a quality you can identify that they all possess?
- Do you think different genres create believable characters differently? If so, why do you think that is? What works in one genre that won’t work in another?