Writing Tips

How to Create Realistic but Awesome Characters!

We all have feelings, interests, special abilities and flaws. Nobody is perfect but isn’t it all those imperfections that makes you… well you?

In this post we’ll be discussing how to create realistic and likeable characters that your audience will care about. Let’s face it, nobody likes a goody two shoes who’s just awesome at everything and gets everything right the first time around.

I spoke yesterday about the importance of conflict and motive but perhaps even more crucial is your protagonist and their character development. By character development I’m of course referring to how your protagonist grows and changes during the course of your manuscript.

People have a tenancy to get all bogged down in the physical description which is fine if you are writing about Scarface or the Big Friendly Giant but otherwise maybe avoid some of those tedious ‘blonde bombshell’ or ‘action man with a sixpack’ stereotypes. In the vast majority of cases it isn’t your characters physical appearance that makes them memorable but their character development. This is depicted by their transition in to something more; it could be a nerd’s transition to most popular guy in school after hacking the principal’s emails or a female secretary who decides to become a professional boxer after being mugged. Character development explores how they change and grow as a person. Everyone has flaws but with character development you can show a protagonist conquering these and changing for the better or worse. Nobody wants to read or watch about someone who hasn’t learned any life lessons… look at Steve (Coronation Street), Ian (Eastenders) and Tony (Hollyoaks) who just can’t keep their pants on and have several failed marriages as a result of their extramarital affairs. It gets old real quick.

Let’s refer back to the plot of trucker girl here and apply some character development to her. Currently we have a young female lorry driver hoping to find her missing brother in the midst of a virus killing millions. So we know she has a goal but what does this tell us about her as a person? Yes she cares about family but what else?

Trucker girl lacks character because we don’t know enough about her so I need to give her some personality traits; therefore I would suggest that trucker girl is loud, resourceful and hot headed, too quick with her actions and fearless with it. During the course of the narrative she has to learn what happens when she is so hot headed and quick to react badly that she actually hinders her own progress in her quest to find her brother; this occurs after an violent encounter with the bandits leaves her stranded with no supplies or means to reach the next outpost she is headed for. From this encounter trucker girl can grow as a person and learn to deal with challenges with rational thought and a change in behaviour.

Similarly you need to give your character strengths to work with. In the case of trucker girl her strength is her resourcefulness when she manages to persevere on her journey on foot amidst a freak snowstorm and eventually reclaim her vehicle. We see how she battles the elements with bravery and sheer stubbornness.  Again this gives the audience something to relate to and understand about her as a person because they learn that she doesn’t need a hero to swoop in and save the day; she is a heroine in her own right.

How your character approaches events that occur will give you the opportunity to write in some excellent character development so make sure you maximise it to its full potential, give your characters some personality traits and most of all make your protagonist interesting! TTYL

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