Creating Believable Characters

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Creating Believable Characters

It can be hard to create a cast of characters that are well-rounded, interesting and, above all, believable. Your plot can be amazing, your world-building precise and imaginative, but if you fill this world with clichéd, two-dimensional people, your story will fall as flat as your characters. Here are a few ways to create your characters, make them relatable and keep your readers compelled.

Have a conversation

One of the first things I do when writing new characters is talk to them. Not out loud, like I do to myself my cat, but I love to sit and do some free writing and conjure up a back and forth between me and my new character! You might feel silly at first, but try asking your character some questions, almost like you are texting them or chatting online. How do they answer you? Are they bemused by this whole process too? Great! Ask them about anything you like. Their work, their friends, their deepest, darkest secrets (if you can convince them to tell you)! What’s their stance on Donald Trump? Do they think Marmite is awesome or disgusting? Do they like The Great British Bake Off? Yep, asking all the important questions over here!

All of these questions, no matter how silly, help you form the idea of a real person, not just ‘red-haired, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who’s a bit quirky’ or ‘man with chiselled jaw and piercing blue eyes’. Although he sounds great actually, go get his number.

Strengths and weaknesses

Sorry, did we just walk into a job interview? Yes, I hate thinking of my own strengths and weaknesses, and I bet your characters can’t think of theirs either. But even if they don’t realise what they are, they have them! Is your character very loyal to his friends? Does she have a tendency to over-exaggerate things? Is she insanely good at playing the trombone? Does he have a gambling problem? There are so many possibilities, and some of these traits will no doubt reveal themselves as your story unfolds.

Having these strengths and weaknesses means you can plonk your characters into all sorts of interesting situations and keep that plot weaving around nicely. Perhaps your protagonist can use her gutsy head for heights and courageous nature whilst saving her dog from a burning building. Maybe you have a character who is given the ultimate opportunity to set things right with his girlfriend, but lets his pride get in the way…again. Will he ever realise he’s sabotaging his relationships? Maybe, but let your readers find out along with him!

Make sure you keep a nice balance here. After all, nobody’s perfect. Not even Chris Pratt. Sorry Chris. As great as they might sound at first, it gets boring reading about someone who is good looking, talented at everything, and a really nice person to boot. Give them some depth! Similarly, I don’t think anyone is 100% bad with absolutely no redeeming qualities. Sure, you might have to really dig deep with some people, but even that serial killer in your crime novel will have something. Maybe he’s really nice to his mum. Perhaps she makes a great spaghetti bolognaise. Maybe there’s something inside them that gives your reader that brilliant ‘love to hate’ feeling. Exploit it!

Keep track

It can get a little confusing when you have all these people floating around in your brain. Who was it who had six little sisters? Was it Emma that fell off a horse when she was a kid, or was it Eleanor? I’m sure it started with an E. This is where character sheets come in handy! When something new and interesting pops up with your character, make a note of it. This can be as simple as the colour of their eyes – eliminating the need for me to jump in during your edit being all annoying going, ‘Ah-ha! They had blue eyes earlier, now they have green!’ – or as complex as notes on their medical history.

Hopefully this blog post has sparked a few ideas on how to bring your characters to life. If you have any more suggestions, please do let me know in the comments! If you’d like to know how I can help you with your manuscript further, take a look at my services page or drop me an email!

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Little Fox Book Club – October 2016

book-club

WELCOME TO THE FIRST INSTALMENT OF

THE LITTLE FOX BOOK CLUB!

Every so often I’d like to invite you all in to share a cup of tea and a choccy biccy (go on, get the kettle on!) and have a natter about the books I have been reading over the last few weeks.

This month I finally got off my bum and re-joined my local library. Having lived in London for six years before moving back to Bedfordshire, I had a bunch of cards for different boroughs, but only an ancient piece of laminated cardboard that I’d had since I was a teenager for good old Luton. Even the librarians would have laughed at it. Now I’m back in the system—and have a key fob thingy to prove it—I’m free to check out ALL THE BOOKS! We have a bit of YA theme going on this month because I went a bit crazy in that side of the library, oops!

Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella

First on my list was Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella as I’d been meaning to read it for ages. This has recently been selected for Zoella’s Book Club and I’m rather miffed that I didn’t get to see the shiny new pink cover in person, but hey ho!finding-audrey

This is Kinsella’s first foray into YA fiction, usually writing what she lovingly refers to as ‘wit lit’. However, her voice works really well for a young adult audience and I found this book to be a really easy, warm and enjoyable read.

The story centres around fourteen-year-old Audrey who, due to a bullying incident in her past, now cannot leave her home. Blighted by social anxiety disorder, she can’t talk to any strangers, wears dark glasses inside and can’t bear to make eye contact, even with her family. It’s only when she is introduced to her brother’s friend Linus that she begins to step into the world outside her room and starts to heal.

What I loved about this book was the focus on family. I feel that a lot of YA books keep parents and siblings in the background, focusing on school and friends more than what happens at home. Audrey’s home life is chaotic, funny and most importantly very realistic and relatable. Her anxiety is handled sensitively and with good humour. I know Kinsella did a lot of research into therapy techniques for this book and the result is a very positive portrayal of mental illness, which is refreshing.

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting – Holly Bourne

My second read of the month was The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne. I hadn’t read any of her other novels before but was attracted by the amazing red edge painting on the pages! I know I shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, but the sides are a different matter entirely!22533460

We follow Bree as she navigates her way from nerdy outcast to most popular girl in the school, and all the bitching, tears and betrayals that go along with it. If the premise sounds a little familiar it’s no surprise that Bourne was inspired by  Mean Girls (which is actually quoted in the story), but I’d say Bree takes it a step further than Cady ever did with the foot cream and weight gain bars.

I loved how realistic a voice Holly has given Bree. It really feels as if you’re inside the head of a seventeen-year-old girl, not someone desperately trying to remember what it’s like to be young. From the wild parties, underage drinking and fumbling sexual situations, nothing is censored, but there is still a sense of immaturity. Bree makes some terrible decisions along the way that made me cringe, but didn’t we all? I know there are some equally painful and embarrassing situations in my own teenage diaries … but we don’t talk about those *shudders*.

So that’s the sum of my reading for October. Two seems a pitiful amount so I’d better up my game! I have started another (Carry On by Rainbow Rowell) but it’s a stonking 517 pages long so that’ll be in my next book club I hope! If you enjoyed Harry Potter, but wished he’d swear a bit more and lived in Watford (don’t we all?) maybe you’d like to read along with me! If you have any suggestions for more books to include, or if you have any thoughts about this month’s reads, drop me a comment below!