Aicha Zoubair

Jessica Bell

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hank Quense's #WriteTip on How to Make Characters Believable @hanque99 #HowTo #AmWriting

To make a believable character, you have to develop the character in four separate areas: physical (outer) attributes, mental (inner) attributes, a biography and a dominant reader emotion.
Physical attributes:  These attributes are the obvious ones.  They tell the reader what the character looks like.  Many beginning or inexperienced fiction writers stop the character development at this point.  What they have created is a cardboard cutout of a real character.  No reader wants to spend time with characters like this because they aren’t human.  In fact, these attributes are the least important of the four areas.  I’ve written and had published short stories in which I never described the characters.  I left that job to the reader’s imagination.  The only important attribute here is dialog; how does the character speak?.  Does the character talk like a banker or a thug?  Does the character’s dialog use gonna, inna and other words of this ilk?  It’s important to differentiate the characters through their dialog.  If every character sounds the same as all the other character, it won’t be an interesting story.
Mental attributes: These attributes are much more important than the physical ones.  These are what turn the cardboard character into a “human.”  These are the attributes you have to assign to your character.  Every one has a personal philosophy and your character needs one also.  Is the character an optimist?  A pessimist?  Is she an individualist or a pragmatist?  Once you assign a philosophy, the character has to act in that fashion.  You can’t have a optimist acting like a pessimist.  If you do, the reader will call you out on it.  Other important traits include the character’s personality.  Is he charming, despotic, murderous, friendly?  And don’t forget to give the character a few quirks.  Does he avoid making eye contact with others?  Does he overeat?  How about picking at her finger nails, or her nail polish?
All this attributes are essential to defining a well-rounded character.
Biography: Most new writers don’t understand the need for a character bio.  After all, most of the material will never make it into the story, so why bother.  Writing a bio allows the writer to understand the character and learn what makes him tick.  If you don’t have a bio, you don’t know how the character will react in different situations.  Suppose you didn’t wrote a bio and someone walks up to your character and punches him in the mouth.  How doe he react?  Does you character punch back?  Turn around and walk away?  You don’t know what the character will do, because you don’t understand the character.  What if a beautiful woman grabs him and kisses him.  Does you character turn red and develop a stammer?  Does he ask for her phone number?  Does he kiss her back?  Without a bio, you’re guessing what the character will do.  Guess will ensure the character inconsistency.
Dominant reader emotion  This attribute isn’t discussed much in fiction writing books.  It’s the emotion you want the reader to experience when the character is in a scene.  All the main characters need one or more of this attribute.  Typical reader emotions are: sympathy, annoyance, pity, amusement, empathy and affection. Don’t give the story’s hero a dominant reader emotion like annoyance or hatred.  These are reserved for the bad guy in the story.
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