Living Characters

Good or compelling characters can keep readers hooked to your work—even if your story isn’t strong enough to hold much weight. It’s not about making characters look like living breathing people, but making them act and feel like they are. It takes more than just minimal effort to make your characters stand up to the test of time, and here I’ve put together a few pointers for you.


1. Make them real

By this I mean make them as close to human as possible. Assuming, of course, that you’re writing human characters. Much of writing’s purpose is to mimic reality, so do your best to make sure your characters act like normal human people. If you need help with this, I strongly suggest going to a public area and watching them. Watch people, see how they interact, their facial expressions and body language, everything that you think might be useful to a story, and use what you saw. Your characters should seem as though they could easily step out of your pages and live right before your readers.


2. Give them life

People have stories. We all do. We all have places we came from that shape our current behaviors and personalities. Give the same thing to your characters. Sit down and figure out everything you can about them. Write backstories for them, full of richness and detail, even though this information will likely never make it into the actual story at all. These are things that will help you know about your character and how they might respond in any given situation. I also recommend taking personality quizzes from the POV of your character, to get even more detail into their lives. If you don’t know who they really are, then your reader will never even have a chance.


3. Let them speak

This is one of the things a lot of new writers neglect doing. They focus on steps one and two, they make their characters seem like living beings, until it comes to their dialogue. Instead of spending the time to make characters talk like people, the characters end up sounding like robots. Unless your character is a robot, nobody wants that. Be sure to take the time to make your characters talk like people—or at least, enough that the writing doesn’t suffer from it. See, if you listen to people, you’ll notice how odd dialogue actually sounds. We don’t want that, either. Characters should respond to whatever the character before them said, and they should sound natural about it. Read your dialogue aloud to make sure it doesn’t sound clunky, robotic, or boring. And make sure to add some flair to your characters, give some of them accents or quirks, and have fun with it.

That’s the real key. If your characters aren’t fun for you to write, they certainly won’t be fun for anyone to read.

I hope these tips were helpful for you! If you have any questions, be sure to let us know.


Senior Edito