Making Believable Characters


One thing I see discussed a lot on the internet is how to make believable characters, which I admit can be bit of a challenge. So, let’s sit down and discuss this for a couple minutes.

Ok, first off, what makes a believable character? Well, he or she needs to be well-rounded. And what I mean by this is that they need to have both strengths and weaknesses. My character Athol is skilled at killing, in fact she’s one of the best assassins in the Alliance, but she’s also temperamental and arrogant, which can lead to making critical mistakes. Talia? She thinks so highly of herself that she calls herself a ‘tactical genius’ even though most of her plans go south. Throw in a sinister and cruel undercurrent and she’s got enough flaws to choke a horse.

I have to admit though, that creating characters is easy for me now; it’s naming them that I have great difficulty doing. In fact, Athol popped into being all because of the two lines that started off the short story with her. When I wrote them, I didn’t have a clear idea of who the character was until she revealed herself to be this teenaged assassin. That’s why the stories with her are written in first person and as a stream of consciousness. Athol’s telling her own life story, not me, and she’s handling everything.

Now, for most people, creating that character might seem daunting, but it really isn’t. A lot of times, they’ll show themselves as you start your story. Someone I know by the name Maia once told me “just write a story,” which became the mantra I live by. Because here’s why: when you do that, the character will unveil himself or herself to you to start off with, and then as the story progresses they will tell you more about themselves.

See, to me, all of them are real people and I deal with them just like I would you and I. We talk, communicate, and I learn about them and they learn from me. To those who aren’t truly artistically inclined, this might be hard to understand, but it’s truly simple. You want a realistic character, then let them come to life and tell their own life story. You, the writer, are nothing more than the one putting the story to paper. Remember that.