- Guest Post by Gaelen VanDenbergh
Your characters are crucial to a good story. Yes, there must be a plot. Things have to happen to these people. But in my opinion, if the characters are not believable, the most riveting story will fall flat.
You have to know your characters. What do they like to eat? If they had a day entirely to themselves, alone, what would they choose to do? Do they have secret dreams or desires that no one knows about? How do they react in various situations? If you think about a close friend of yours, think of all that you know of that person’s idiosyncrasies. Carefully consider your characters in the same way.
Consider personal history. Where did they grow up? What was their family situation? Do they have brothers and sisters? Were they nurtured or neglected or something in-between? What turning points occurred in their life? What were their relationships like with partners over the years?
If I find myself struggling with the process of getting to know one of my characters, and this has happened many times, I pretend we are meeting for a drink, and I ask them questions. As the conversation in my head progresses, I begin to sort out who this person is and what made them who they are, what brought them to this point in their lives, what they are going through in the present. I can be very nosy.
Once your characters become real to you, your writing will portray them honestly, and they will therefore be believable to your readers.
Finally, pay attention to the details. For me, once I have truly gotten to know a character the way I would know a close friend, I can hear them talk, I see their body language, and I often think I know how they would react in certain situations. Though, as I write, they sometimes surprise me, and then we have to go back to the bar to discuss it. Why did they do that? What made them say that? Don’t let them try to change the subject. This may be their story but it’s your book. Find out what’s really going on.
If this seems like a lot of work, consider your friendships in real life. Did they just come about, or did you spend time getting to know these people? It wasn’t really work, was it? Well, with some people it’s work. But with people you have created, it should fascinate and engross you. For me, it’s the absolute best part of the writing process.
For a limited time only, $2.99
Genre – Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13