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How to Write Believable Characters

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the characters’ backstories seemed unrealistic or forced? It can be frustrating when characters don’t have believable backgrounds, and it can make it difficult to connect with them.

Creating realistic and compelling backstories for characters is an essential part of crafting a good story. However, it’s not always easy to know where to start or how much detail to include.

If you’re struggling to write believable backstories for your characters, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for crafting backstories that will make your characters feel like real people. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or just starting out, these tips will help you create characters that readers will care about and root for.

Choose a backstory

One of the most important things you can do to create believable characters is to give them a backstory. Think about their childhood, family life, and experiences that have shaped who they are. This will help you understand their motivations and give them depth.

Sometimes giving a character backstory close to your own is a good place to start. If you’re writing during a specific time period, it is important to do research that might help shape your character’s backstory.

Give Your Characters Flaws

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Perfect characters are boring. Give your characters flaws that make them relatable and human. Maybe they have a bad temper or struggle with addiction. These flaws will make your characters more interesting and believable.

What is a flaw? A character flaw is an undesirable quality in a person’s personality. Before we start hurting our own feelings by asking ‘What’s wrong with me?’, maybe we should just consider the seven dirty sins. Lying, blasphemy, cheating, etc.

If you’re having trouble coming up with more complex flaws, consult Brynne Donovan’s Master Lists for Writers. Her blog has helped me in times of creating the background for secondary characters at a moment’s notice.

Use Realistic Dialogue

Dialogue can be one of the hardest parts of writing for some writers. There have been examples of good dialogue and bad dialogue. Pay close attention when reading. Compose a list of words that you find yourself using in text or in conversation with others. Record yourself talking. Real verbal conversations are not necessarily perfect, nor are they boring. They’re unique in their own way.

One book I’ve read recently that I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue was 56 Days by Catherine Howard. The banter between the main characters was clever and felt real. Some lines made me laugh out loud, something I did not expect from this suspense novel.

Dialogue is an essential tool for developing your character. Make sure your characters speak in a way that feels natural and realistic. Avoid using overly formal or stilted language unless it makes sense for the character.

Show, Don’t Tell

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I always liked the advice I received from an elementary art school teacher who told me “Draw what you see, not what you know.” I know it was referring to art, but it can apply to writing too.

Instead of telling readers what your characters are like, show them through their actions and interactions with others. For example, instead of saying “Samantha is a caring person,” show her doing something caring for someone else. Think of the page as the stage.

(I was a band, theater, and art nerd, can you tell?)

Give Your Characters Goals

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Goals. They are the root of the story. Your character is a secret agent for the government. Who is his current target? Maybe your character is a freshman in high school and confused about their sexuality. Are they going to try dating?

Put yourself in that situation – what is the first thing you would do in your characters’ position?

All characters should have goals, whether they’re big or small. This will give them purpose and help drive the story forward. Make sure their goals are realistic and in line with their personality and backstory.

Consider Your Characters’ Relationships

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The relationships your characters have with others can reveal a lot about their personalities and motivations. Think about how they interact with family, friends, and love interests. These relationships can add depth and complexity to your characters.

Think about the relationships that are around you. Who do you get along with? Who do you have qualms with? Who are your best friends and what are their personalities like?

Revise and Refine

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Creating believable characters takes time and effort. Don’t be afraid to revise and refine your characters until they feel real. Show your work to others and ask for feedback. This will help you see your characters from a fresh perspective and make them even more believable.

Writing Sources

Blogs on Writing
Generators & Other Tools

While some of these are meant for Dungeons and Dragons and other table-top RPG’s, they can come quite handy in filling in the blanks.





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