Making Characters Real

Everyone is always talking about making your characters feel real. One way to accomplish this is to make each character different. And although this is obvious to most of us writers, it’s always good to brush up on those skills.

Making the character different doesn’t mean physically; you don’t want all of your characters blonde with blue eyes. And you don’t even have to have them different races. What I mean by different is different individual characteristics. This is obviously done with physical traits, but even better is to individualize them via dialog. Harder to do, but worth all of the effort.

For instance, you could have a character, say a teenager, always use the word ‘like’. A common tract among teens. Now think of an adult who you want to seem immature. Have them use that word. This singles them out and gives the reader a way to distinguish them from the other characters.

Using the same phrase is fairly easy to do, however you can also show your characters individualism by using more subtle means. For instance, if you want your character to be intelligent, have them use bigger words; i.e. college words. Or if you have a character that is uppity or a snob or just wants to be perceived as smart but really isn’t, have them use bigger words. What if you have a highly intelligent character and he/she wants to fit in with ‘normal people’. Have them purposely use smaller/less precise words in normal conversation then revert back to their ‘higher’ speaking when in thought.

Colloquialisms are also good for distinguishing characters. However, in this instance there needs to be a balancing act. Don’t use slang too often. A better and more effective way is to use terms more appropriate to the area from which the character hails. For example, a southern person telling people to hurry. One could write: “Ya’ll hurry. We need to be getting’ movin’.” But using something that might be familiar to that area accomplishing the same thing but with more pizazz. “Ya better be like starving pigs to a slop bucket.” The imagery enhances the writing.

Trying to make characters real is a challenge that all writers face. Doing it successfully requires skill, practice and hard work. But when it happens, the reader knows it.

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