It’s so easy to write crappy characters.
Coming up with fake people shouldn’t be too hard because there are so many different personalities to choose from. For some odd reason, though, creating realistic characters is super difficult.
Here are some ways to bring life to your characters (literally).
1. Base Your Characters on Real People
If you’re a fiction writer, don’t lie and say you haven’t attempted to write a book with yourself as the main character.
It’s just so EASY.
That’s exactly why you should do it!
Choose someone that you know pretty well. Make sure you know things about them such as their good traits, bad traits, and weird ticks. Once you understand you’re characters you’re free to write about them.
Friendly suggestion, though? Don’t let a person know that you based a character on them. If you do, you may be scared to show them in their true colors, and your character’s actions may not match their personality anymore.
2. Build Your Own Frankensteins
No, you don’t have to actually create an army of Frankensteins to fill your book. What I’m saying is that you should stack together an abundance of personality traits and create your characters from scratch.
Everyone has something good about them. Even the most evil people have goodness in them.
Villains aren’t nice people but they’re still (Sometimes) human. Surely, you can find something that your villain can care about: a sibling, a pet, a significant other.
You can even use the one thing that they care about as the reason for their delinquency.
Let’s just hypothetically consider a scenario to give you an idea:
A girl falls in love with a boy and he promises her he loves her and will never leave her. He gets her a ring and proposes and she’s all crazy in love (blah blah blah, you know the deal).
A few months later he breaks up with her for another girl.
The original girl will then go on a vengeful mission to destroy all male hearts she can get to. She’ll stumble across this certain other guy and throughout the rest of the story she can battle between actually falling in love with him and knowing she simply planned to cause him mental pain.
Sure, that would work great if you planned to write a story from the villains point of view, but the point of that hypothetical scenario was to express my message.
Sometimes even the things we love can cause us to hate. That’s why even your greatest nemesis’ need to have a redeaming factor.
That also means that your good characters need to have bad traits. They can’t be perfect little lambs frolicking through the evil of society without a scratch. Taint your characters with the struggle of their lives.
Here’s another example:
A child’s parents are constantly fighting. He’s on a mission to save their marriage, but his attempts are slowed by his own lack of commitment and trust to others.
In this case, the child is obviously the main good character in the story, but he is marred by the influence his parents’ relationship had on him.
No one is perfect so make everyone equally good and bad. That’s how humans are so that’s how your characters should be.
Make Them Human
If your characters are supposed to be human, make them human.
Take some time to closely study the actions of those you’re around. People have different reactions to certain emotions and situations.
For example, when stressed I bite my nails but my brother runs his hands through his hair. When excited, my one friend talks really fast while someone else might walk and move around a lot.
Most humans outwardly express their emotions so, as all writers will say, “Show, don’t tell.”
Make Your Characters Different
No two people are exactly alike so no two characters should be exactly alike.
Don’t fall into the habit of having everyone speak the same or act the same. Take into consideration that some people have accents, others talk in slang, and someone else might speak formal English.
Also, as earlier mentioned, don’t give all your characters the same reactions to stimulation. If someone dies, certain characters should start making a big fuss while others may be completely silent.
All your characters need to be their own individual human beings.
Don’t Worry About Appearances
When you write, you really shouldn’t be obsessed with what your characters look like. No one will care if they’ve got flowing golden locks that compliment their bright sea-green eyes. We don’t care!
Take a look into classic literature novels and tell me how often characters appearances are described. Sure, someone may mention how beautiful a girl is, but the book doesn’t go on for twenty minutes about her flowing golden locks!
I’m pretty sure if you go back and read Great Expectations Pip isn’t described once. You just barely know his age at points in the story much less that he’s a lanky young stick of a boy.
And please, I beg you, stop giving your characters red hair! Show us that your character is feisty through their actions, not their hair color.
People Can Sometimes Change
Not all people can change, but some will. Don’t forget to let your characters grow as you write.
As writers, we know that our skills advance with time and practice. The same should be true of your characters.
In general, keep your characters realistic. Don’t let them fade into the dark abyss of crappy characters written by crappy authors.