How to: Write a Convincing Character
One of the biggest problems many of our students have when writing fiction is with character development. It’s difficult to create a three-dimensional character that will ring true for your readers, but it’s absolutely essential in order to fully immerse readers in your story. Here are a few guidelines to help you write a convincing character.
Do you really know your character?
You might have a general idea about who your character is (age, name, gender, occupation, etc), but do you really know your character?
As a writer, it’s your job to know everything about your character. From his (or her) marital status to his taste in music. Even if some of these details don’t show up in your story, knowing that your character was unpopular in high school, for example, will help you add realism to your story. It will also make your job much easier, as it will give you a better idea of how this person you’ve created would act in certain situations.
As you’re outlining your story, make a separate fact sheet for each of your characters. Begin filling it in with background information. The following list are some of my favorite questions for writers to ask themselves when creating backstory. Feel free to use this list, or make one that works for you:
- What does your character look like?
- What level of education does your character have?
- Where does your character work?
- What is your character’s annual income?
- What is your character’s ethnicity?
- Does your character speak using a particular accent, drawl, or turn of phrase?
- Describe your character’s relationships: romantic, familial, friends
- What does your character do in his/her spare time?
- What, if any, politics does your character follow?
- What, if any, religion does your character belong to?
- Does your character have any superstitions?
- What are your character’s main fears?
- What are your character’s biggest flaws?
- What are your character’s biggest strengths?
- What ambitions or goals does your character have?
- Does your character have any pets?
- What is your character’s taste in music, books, movies, etc?
- What does your character like to eat?
- When is your character’s birthday?
- Does your character have any special talents?
- Who are your character’s friends?
- Who are you character’s enemies?
- Does your character have any special marking like tattoos or scars?
- How does your character see him/herself?
- How do others see your character?
The list could go on and on, but these 25 questions are a great start to creating well-rounded characters.
Remember – as writers, your characters can be just like your best friends or your second family. If you think of them as whole, real people complete with histories, worries, and ambitions, they will translate that way to your readers, and make your stories so much richer!