How to Make Your Characters Believable
My mother gave me a love of reading at an early age when she’d sit on my bed and read books to me. I’ve always been drawn to the characters in stories more than anything else. It’s the way people think and feel, the things they say and do that fascinate me. When I began writing, I knew if I did nothing else right I wanted to develop characters that seem real, have depth and dimension.
One of the best ways to make characters believable is to make them realistic. Create a character that could be a friend or someone you pass on the street.
For me, the process begins by visualizing my characters. I’m a very visual person and I need to “see” my characters before I really get into developing them. I search online until I find a face I can put with my ideas for a character. Sometimes the inspiration comes from an actor or someone in the news. A few family members have even served as unsuspecting character models.
Once I’ve got a clear picture of my character’s appearance, I begin fleshing them out. How tall are they, what is their build? What do they smell like? How do they speak? What does their voice sound like? What does their laugh sound like? What mannerisms are uniquely theirs (cracking knuckles, drumming fingers, humming). Detail everything about their physical presence you can.
After their outward appearance is complete, delve into their inner workings. What makes them tick? Are they insecure? Confident? Happy? Haunted? Are they emotional? Are they friendly or aloof? What makes them smile? What brings them to tears?
Pretend you’ve just met an interesting person you want to get to know and he is willing to answer any question you ask. Then ask those questions of your character.
Another thing I’ve found helpful is studying the profession of my characters. I research whatever work my main characters pursue so I can write about it from a more realistic standpoint.
In my latest contemporary romance, The Christmas Cowboy, the hero is a saddle bronc rider. I grew up going to rodeos and around cowboys, but I spent hours watching YouTube videos of saddle bronc riders because it helped me capture the little details that make my character authentic.
Dialogue is also so important and can be a deal-breaker if you don’t get it right. A rodeo cowboy isn’t going to speak with stiff formality. Someone in 1893 isn’t going to say, “hey, dude, you nailed it.” Think about your character, where they are both in their life and in a physical sense, and construct their thoughts and words accordingly.
As you tell the character’s story, let them creep into your mind, seep into your soul, and take up residence there while you write. Both you and your characters will be better for the experience.
For more details about The Christmas Cowboy, visit The Christmas Cowboy page on Shanna’s website. From December 1-24, Shanna will donate 10% of her net proceeds from all her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with Captain Cavedweller, she writes clean romantic fiction with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.
Flying from city to city in her job as a busy corporate trainer for a successful direct sales company, Kenzie Beckett doesn't have time for a man. And most certainly not for the handsome cowboy she keeps running into at the airport. Burned twice, she doesn't trust anyone wearing boots and Wranglers, especially someone as charming and handsome as Tate Morgan.
Among the top saddle bronc riders in the rodeo circuit, easy-going Tate Morgan can handle the toughest horse out there, but trying to deal with the beautiful Kenzie Beckett is a completely different story.
As the holiday season approaches, this Christmas Cowboy is going to need to pull out all the stops if he wants a chance at winning her heart.
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Genre – Romance (contemporary western)
Rating – PG
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