Whether you write speculative or realistic fiction, your characters need real character traits and real issues going on in their lives. I’m not talking solely about plot-related things. I’m talking about what makes your character multidimensional.
You might create them from scratch, or they might be inspired by someone you know. Honestly, a lot of my characters are inspired by people I know. Sometimes it’s just the small things like uncommon words or personal preference, or.some personality quirks that I think made that person interesting. Other characters represent someone or something in my life, and others are very closely based on people I know.
But at the end of the day, they’re my fictional version adapted to work with my story.
Below are just some of the “real” things that my characters deal with. Some overlap, some dominate their lives, and some are just the little things that create a realistic and relatable character.
Making Characters Unique
Every character needs something that sets them apart from the others. This could be a personality trait or a special skill. It could be done through their mannerisms like someone who always shrugs or rakes their hand through their hair or paces. Or maybe through their abilities, like speaking several languages or a rare magical power.
This can manifest in various aspects of a character’s life. Self-image, jealousy, too much pressure to succeed. They all make a character doubt themselves, which you might have casual mentions of throughout, or it might come at a crucial moment and the character has to overcome their insecurities and be brave.
Good or Bad Luck
This is a big issue in my Starlighters series, since a few characters can sense the gist of a good or bad future. Of course, this is magic based, but many of us get niggly feelings that something good or bad is going to happen. It’s also part of foreshadowing in your book.
The other side of this is past luck. Someone might consider themselves bad luck because of the life they’ve had. Others might have lucky charms to help keep them on a positive path.
Reactions to Traumatic or Stressful Events
Characters go through a lot during an average book or series. You need to drop descriptions of how certain stresses or emotional events affect your characters. Life stresses can cause limp hair, bags under their eyes, weak state, weight issues. That last one is very true for me, so I used it for one of my MCs.
Or there are deeper traumas like a break-up, death, or losing a job or home. These major losses will create grief in your character. It usually affects the character in every scene after the grief hits and might manifest in depression or frustration. Yes, it’s dark and grim. But it’s real and will make a big impact on your characters.
Characters need a few real moments, like getting up in the morning, eating food, shopping, at work or reading a book. These could happen before or after the plot-related events of the scene, but you should include these activities even if they’re summarises in a short paragraph so as not to add too much detail to a mundane activity.
Nobody wants a book full of boring conversations, but a few lines of banter or general chit-chat go a long way. Use the quiet moments for characters to drop a comment about a character’s clothes or their sister’s boyfriend or how their new job is going. It’s best to keep this to a few lines of dialogue before leading into the conversation you need the characters to have.
Your characters are as real as you make them.
Title image by Thoughtcatalog at pixabay.