Storytelling is an integral part of the human experience. Authors have created new stories since the dawn of civilization. A story can serve many purposes: to entertain, to educate or to build a common sense of community through shared cultural meaning. Whatever the purpose, writing believable characters is crucial to the composition of an engaging, compelling piece.
Being a social species, we naturally want to relate to one another. We often assess our own positions in life based on our perception of others in our community. In light of this, you can understand why creating believable, interesting characters can propel a manuscript to succeed.
What Do They Eat for Lunch?
Often, readers remember the smaller details about a character that an inexperienced writer may forget to include. When we meet a new person, for example, we may take in a number of tiny bits of information that don’t even register formally in our brains. We then synthesize all that information to help us make a holistic impression of the person in our minds. What someone eats for lunch can tell us a lot about them. Are they health-conscious? Do they have a set of beliefs that are strongly held such as ordering a vegan or halal meal? Based upon the foods they enjoy, can we discern clues about where they come from? Are they poor or rich?
How Do They Get Around?
Your character’s primary mode of transport can say a lot about them as a person. Did they arrive on a motorcycle, in an Uber or driven in a limo? The details matter too, like what kind of car they drive or whether they wear a bike helmet. Characters who don’t wear a bike helmet are likely to be risk takers with a distaste for rules. If they drive a vehicle, what does it say about them? Do they have a preference for form over function or the other way around?
The condition of the character’s mode of transport is also expository. Do they maintain their bicycle or car? Do they take pride in its appearance? For a variety of reasons, some people value material possessions more than others and take better care of them.
What Motivates Them?
Most human behavior is explainable by understanding the reasons why an action was taken. For example, Iago’s endless scheming in Shakespeare’s famous play seems extreme and unnecessary until you understand his true underlying motivations. Motivation is so important that establishing cause is crucial to many court cases. Without the proper stimulus, people will not perform certain actions.
How Did Their Past Affect Them?
No one lives in a vacuum. As we travel through time, we change. Who we are at this moment is directly tied to the events of our past. Often, a glimpse into a person’s background can illuminate a great deal about certain aspects of their character. But it’s not just the events of their past — it’s also how they immediately reacted to those events, and what support they had to get through it, if any.
As you write your piece, consider questions facing your character as if he or she is the dynamic, complicated being that a real-life person is. When you do this, readers will naturally relate to the character who becomes more vivid in their minds.
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