How to Write a Realistic Character
Updated: Dec 29, 2022
Inventing a realistic character who is relatable and inspiring can be difficult, especially if you don't know where to start. Upon my journey in writing, I've learned much about what makes characters seem human and would like to share what I learned with you!
Here are the eight key factors you can add throughout your novel to add humanity and realism to your characters:
Think of ten adjectives that you would use to describe your character's personality. If your character is adventurous, then they might also be athletic or perhaps even courageous and impulsive. These adjectives do not all need to fit together. Like people, your characters can also be complex. Take for example that a murderer has the capability to love. A cautious person suddenly becomes brave when the situation forces them to. A person who often lies might want to become a doctor to help others. These qualities do not necessarily need to fit together. These opposite descriptions are what make a character so complex. This is the trick to redeem an antagonist and add imperfection to the protagonist. Remember, people are complex, and not one of them think alike due to their upbringing and situations they've lived through. Make your character's personality complex, and you will find them to be realistic.
2. LIKES AND DISLIKES
Start from the basics. Likes and dislikes can be the simplest thing you could invent about your character. What kinds of food do they like/dislike? What types of people do they get on with or don't? What simple pleasures do they prefer? How do they want to live their lives if the world you created was perfect?
What do they dislike about the current situation?
Why makes them happy/ unhappy?
Every person has a goal, whether they are small or large. Your character might not have any goals at the beginning of the novel until a certain situation leads them to develop one. As the story progresses, you might realize that their goal needs to change due to what they have learned. This depends on your storyline. But remember, like people, your characters will want to strive to achieve something, whether it be for themselves or the betterment of others, or the betterment of the world.
4. HOW DO THEY THINK?
All people think differently, this is one thing I've learned in my life. Often you might find people who think similarly as you but not exactly like you. This could be due to their cultural backgrounds, the situations they've lived through, taught family beliefs, religious beliefs and so much more. As you can see, there many different factors that can mold another's thought process. Here are some questions that might be helpful to you when trying to understand how your character thinks: -Remember to use the previous steps we've already covered (especially step #1) when answering these questions. How will your character respond to a certain situation they come across? How will they respond to something someone has told them? How will they respond to obstacles and setbacks? How do they respond to death? What will situation will break your character's heart? What does your character believe in? What is their hope? Who are their role models? Or what kinds of people do they look up to, and why? What constitutes success in their minds? What constitutes a good or bad person to them? What kinds of people do they despise?
5. WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THEM IN LIFE?
Everybody has something that they consider valuable to them, whether it be certain people in their lives or even a material object. These people or material objects could hold sentimental value to the character. It is important to remember, even your evil characters will have something they love; something they cannot live without. Apart from this, importance can also come from the life they would like to live. What lifestyle- if any- do they have that they cannot live without? What beliefs- if any- do they have that they cannot live without? Are they career-oriented or family-oriented? Is their healthy important to them? Why? Perhaps a close relative had died from poor health and led your character to take better care of themselves.
6. STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
No one person is perfect, and your characters shouldn't be either if you are striving for realism. All people have things they are good at and things they are not. This could relate academically or in other aspects of the person's life. Is your character great at cooking, but bad at baking? Is your character street smart, but not book smart? Create a list for your character of strengths and weaknesses. Add things they know well, and things they don't know. You could create a different chart of future strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses they used to have at the beginning of the novel might have changed to become a strength. Weaknesses can also be strengths! People are always self-conscious of some aspect about themselves that might not be up to par with others. But their individuality could offer something greater than what everybody else has! Find out what weakness or flaw your character has that benefits them in the future or that can be used as their superpower!
Quirks are something everybody has that makes us even more human! Some people pick their noses, others might open and close the door impulsively a certain number of times. Taking drugs every time your character is stressed or thinking is also another quirk. There are an infinite number of quirks in the world! Find which fit your character best!
8. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
What didn't your character know at the beginning of your novel that he learned at the end? What situations have molded him, and how exactly have they molded his personality? Character development is very important because we too, like our characters will change throughout time due to what we've learned in our day-to-day lives. This could be a positive change or a negative change. That depends on your story. Take, for example, a character who learned he/she had been betrayed by a lover. Due to their pessimistic personality, they have chosen to learn never to trust anybody again and never to be so open and vulnerable with another again. Not all character development needs to be positive. We as humans don't always develop positively either. And there can be several times your character develops throughout the novel, depending on what you put them through. You as their creator must know how your character will think about these situations given their unique personality.
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