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How to Create Believable Characters in Novels

Before you start writing your novel, develop the characters. Some of the more experienced writers may develop them as they go along but for the novice writer, it would be a good idea to thoroughly know your character before you start writing.

Set up a checklist showing all the possible questions you could answer about your character, beginning with the most obvious, which would be the physical description. Don’t give them a bland, cookie-cutter image. All of us have imperfections, oddities, and quirks that give each of us our own uniqueness. Do the same for your characters. Give them something to make them memorable in the reader’s mind. Someone could walk with a limp, has brown crooked teeth, a jagged scar running down the side of the face and the possibilities are endless. Another good way of building a physical description of your characters would be to actually observe people around you. Note any features that stand out. Take a few characteristics from different people and put them together to create your own unique person. Remember also, that the readers are living out a fantasy by reading stories, they want believable but yet larger than life type of individuals that they can identify with or hate with a passion.

The next thing could be their personality traits. How they react to people, situations and problems. You need to think carefully of how you want a particular character to be and make sure you apply all of the traditional behavior patterns towards everything they do and say. Keep it consistent throughout the story. The reader will notice if you have a character acting like a country hick at one point then speak as a professional at another. It won’t play well and you’ll lose the reader. Decide before you begin your novel how a particular character is going to be and stay with that throughout the book. The only time you may want to show a change in their behavior is if something happens in the book to change that person’s life.

Other things you’ll want in your checklist would be background, family, work, hobbies, mannerisms and the way they dress. These things wouldn’t necessarily have to be included in the book but they’ll give you a clear picture of whom you’re writing about and by that, you’ll be able to convey that image to the readers.

Make sure that the dialogue you use for a particular character fits. Sound it out and speak the dialogue. See if it sounds natural to the ear. If it doesn’t, then it needs to be revised to sound as if that person could actually be saying these things.

A skilled writer will find ways to weave all this information throughout the story in a natural way. He’ll show the character gradually through the plot of the story using action, dialogue and other characters to develop him. Some writers have a series of books based on the same hero and in each book, divulges an additional piece of information that makes one say, “Now I understand why he is the way he is.” The reader doesn’t want to be told in a narrative paragraph what the character looks like, sounds like and where they came from. This leaves no room for the reader’s imagination to come alive. Show the reader and make these characters come alive in their minds. Remember to always keep them exciting. Most of us live out ordinary lives of working, taking care of family, paying bills, etc. We don’t want to read about more of the same. Make the characters interesting and their lives full of adventure so that the reader can get lost in the story and you’ll be sure to keep him coming back for more.

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