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how to create a credible character

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By Johannes Helmold

One of my favorite parts of being a writer is the power to create people out of nowhere. Seriously, what other job lets you invent characters, personalities, relationships between them, and so on? What other job grants you with the supreme power of running somebody else’s live?

However, even a god’s job has drawbacks. In our case (let’s throw humbleness away for a while) one of them is connected to making characters look and act like real people. Perhaps, you’ve already faced the problem when your characters don’t act or talk like real people. Well, then this blog post is for you, because today I am going to give you some tips on how to create people.

  • If you are writing on your own behalf, then—surprise!—you are the character, as well as the rest of your novel’s (or whatever it is that you write) protagonists. In fact, being a character sucks in certain ways, because you can never know what other people think, or what is going to happen to you. Besides, it requires you to have a great skill, because you have no opportunity to describe other people’s personalities, as well as their motives, secrets, and so on. All you can do is to watch them act, and make your own conclusions.

To some extent, you—the author and the character, two in one—have to “live” and “act” depending on the actions of other characters in your book. You are the guide and the guided at the same time. So, you can only make subjective conclusions about other characters, and you can’t act as if you know what is going to happen next. You may know everything about the plot as a writer, but as a character, you can know only what happens in the moment, or happened some time ago.

  • Third-person writing gives you more freedom in terms of describing both the psychological features and physical appearance of your characters. The trick is not to overburden your main character (whom you most likely will identify yourself with) with positive traits. This is one of the main problems of Hollywood, by the way—the main protagonist is the 100% embodiment of everything positive and nice and shiny. This tradition, though, is being broken in various TV shows, like House M.D., Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones, where no absolutely good characters exist. Also, don’t rush into detailed descriptions; use huge convex strokes rather than painting super-detailed saturated portraits. Briefly, third-person writing allows you to reveal your characters’ personalities more fully, but there is a risk to leave no place for intrigue and sudden plot twists connected to them.

That’s all so far. Stay updated with us—there is more coming about characters’ credibility!

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