How To Create Believable Characters

By Jennifer Blanchard

Last week, I discussed the five things you need to know about your NaNo novel before you write it and gave you five resources to help you with your planning. But planning out the plot points and structure of your novel isn’t the only thing you need to think about when it comes to writing a novel (although I’d argue it’s definitely one of the most important things).

In order to write a novel that sits well with readers and keeps them reading until your very last word, you need characters that are compelling and, most importantly, believable.

Creating Believable Characters
The first step to creating characters that are believable is to understand what makes a person who they are.

As Larry Brooks so perfectly details in his eBook, The Three Dimensions of Character, there are three things that make up who you are (and who your characters are):

  • Surface Traits, Quirks and Habits—This is the first dimension of character. It’s how a character acts to the outside world. It’s a character’s personality. But while surface traits, quirks and habits are very important to building a believable character, if that’s all you build, your character is going to be flat and one-dimensional, which does not make for good reading. That’s why you need the second dimension (and the third).
  • Backstory and Inner Demons—This is the second dimension of character. It’s the background details, circumstances and information that make a character who she is today. This dimension shows readers the inner landscape of a character.
  • Action, Behavior and World View—This is  the third and final dimension of character. This is how a character acts, how they explain and rationalize the choices they make and the things they do and don’t do.

To learn more about the three dimensions of character, read Larry’s post about character development. Or for a much more detailed and helpful look at how to create a character, read his eBook: The Three Dimensions of Character. (Here’s a review I wrote of that eBook.)

Creating believable characters requires you to dig deep and really learn who these people are that you’re writing about. To get started, write out the backstory for your main character by answering all of the questions listed on this character questionnaire (which is excerpted from Brooks’ eBook).

Note: The links to The Three Dimensions of Character are affiliate links. If you purchase Larry’s must-have eBook, Procrastinating Writers will make a couple bucks. Thanks for your support.

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