6 Ways to Make Your Characters Believable
All my ideas for stories begin with people, not characters. People. They are as real to me as my next door neighbor and nothing makes me prouder than to have a reader say “I felt like I knew these people.” You know them, too. You don’t have to copy an entire persona, but you can borrow bits and pieces from the world around you and create a fictional someone who feels real. Here are a few things I’ve learned about writing realistic characters.
1. Listen. Listen to the people around you. How do you know it’s Jane on the phone and not Sally? Does your Great Aunt Edna sound the same as the fifteen year old who lives next door? Of course not. It’s not only sound that distinguishes our voices from each other. It’s the patterns of speech, the choice of words and how we use them. The teenager who lives in the Bronx won’t sound a bit like his counterpart in San Diego, nor does someone born and raised in Minnesota sound like someone from Alabama.
Eavesdrop on conversations. Listen to parents talk to their children and children talking to each other. Women don’t talk like men and men don’t talk like boys and while we may write in complete sentences, we rarely speak in them. If it’s between the quotes, it doesn’t have to be grammatically correct and if it is, your characters will sound, well, like characters rather than people. That’s not to say you can’t have a character who speaks that way, but that should be a distinguishing feature of that character alone.
We also don’t stare at each other as we speak. We drink coffee, wipe the counter, flip through a magazine, play with the straw wrapper. Get the picture? Don’t let your characters converse in a vacuum.
2. Watch. Real people chew on their nails, tap their toes, twirl their hair when they’re nervous, crack their knuckles or snort when they laugh. What about the woman who lifts her chin and dramatically blows a stream of smoke out into the room? The guy who sucks in his gut every time a pretty girl walks by? These mannerisms are part of who we are. You’re characters should have them, too.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘body language’, do a little research. The way we hold our bodies, cross our legs, sit in chairs or move our eyes tells a lot about how we feel.
3. Express emotion without words. My kids will tell you that as long as I’m yelling, you’re safe. It’s when I stop yelling and get stonily quiet that you’re in big trouble. Don’t tell, show. You’re heroine might tell the hero she can’t have children, but when her body goes still and her eyes mist at the sight of kids on the playground, you’ve told the reader how much that hurts. When that tough guy helps an old lady with her groceries, we know he’s not so tough. It’s the little things people do that tell us who they are.
4. Save some of it for later. Did you ever sit next to a stranger at a party who promptly tells you their life story with emphasis on the bad parts? Do you groan inwardly and look for an excuse to move away? You’re characters begin as strangers to your readers. She may be recently divorced, but don’t reveal her every hurt and fear immediately. Let the reader get to know her first. That badass biker? Give the reader time before you reveal he’s the father of two pretty cool teenagers. Reveal the mysteries of your characters the same way you should reveal yourself – a little at a time.
5. Reveal Imperfections. Nobody’s perfect and let’s be honest; the closer someone comes to perfection, the less we like them. Maybe your heroine can’t cook. Maybe she looks perfect, but on the way to the dinner party of the century, she realizes she’s wearing two different shoes. Give the reader to say, ‘Oh yeah, I get it. Been there done that.’ Maybe your hero has a teenaged daughter he has no clue how to deal with. Or maybe that seemingly perfect hero has no idea how to change the tire on his expensive car. Too perfect can be boring and flaws can be endearing.
6. Don’t overdo it. Once these speech patterns or mannerisms or character flaws are revealed, don’t hammer them to death. She doesn’t have to chew her thumb every time she speaks. He doesn’t have to stop at every corner to help the blind man cross the street. She doesn’t have to say “Really?” every time someone does something she thinks is foolish, unless of course, you want her to be annoying. In real life, we notice little character quirks at first and then they fade into part of the background. Writing should be the same.Wolver's Rescue
By Jacqueline Rhoades
The Sometimes it’s not the wolves that pose the danger...
There’s a downside to living in a secret society. Someone has to ensure it remains that way. ‘Bull’ Bulworth is that someone. His current assignment: track a young man who has an unrecognized wolf inside him and eliminate the problem before the truth about Wolvers is exposed to the human world. It’s a simple and straightforward assignment until he meets a woman who makes him think crazy might be contagious.
In her own words, Tommie Bane is nuttier than a pecan tree. There’s a voice in her head telling her she is something other than human, and a creature she swears is running around inside her body. Just when she’s at the lowest point in her weird and nutty life, she meets a man who tells her it’s all real. Should she listen to the voice of reason or to the voice in her head that keeps shouting “Mate”?
What do you have to lose when you’ve already lost your mind? For Tommie, it could be her life.
Available at: Kobo Smashwords Amazon Amazon UK B&N
Available at: Kobo Smashwords Amazon Amazon UK B&N
His kiss surprised her with its gentleness. He touched his lips to hers and withdrew, touched and withdrew, attending to the corners of her mouth with tantalizing delicacy before sucking tenderly at her bottom lip. Her initial tenseness left her and she followed his lead, teasing and enticing his mouth with hers.
He pulled her closer. Their hands still entwined, crushed against his chest. Her body swayed with his to the music of the forest surrounding them. She floated in his arms, secure in their strength. Her feet followed the movement of his as if they’d partnered in this woodland ballroom many times before. She laughed softly and he chuckled in response when he gently pushed her away and twirled her under their joined hands.
This time when he drew her into his embrace, his kiss had more urgency to it. She could feel his heart pounding against the hand held to his chest and her heart matched its beat. They drew apart and as they came back together, his hands slid over her back to her bottom and he lifted her. She knew what he wanted of her and she wrapped her legs around his waist, centering their apex over the bulge in his jeans. This placed her head above his and when he groaned with the pressure her locked ankles applied, Tommie kissed him.
There was no gentleness to it. Her hands gripped his shoulders and her mouth descended on his. There was a moment’s hesitation on his part and then he responded with all the aggression she’d first expected. One hand was left supporting her rear while the other gripped the hair at the back of her head and forced her mouth onto his. The fire of his hunger fed hers and the flames of desire engulfed them both. He snarled against her lips. She took his lower lip between her teeth and pulled. Tongues touched, licked and fought for control. Teeth clashed. Mouths devoured.
Tommie couldn’t get enough of him; the feel of him, the scent of him, the taste of him. He was hers. She kissed his eyes and felt the flutter of his lashes against her tongue. Her eyes, her lashes. She nuzzled him nose to nose, tasted his cheeks, felt the roughness of his day old beard against her chin, ran a line of sweet kisses across his brow. Her hands gripped the sides of his head, forcing his mouth back to hers. Her body trembled with excitement. Her breath came in hot, heavy pants.
“Mine. Mine. Mine.”
A New Englander by birth and an Ohioan by choice, Jacqueline, known as Jackie by her friends, makes her home in a small, rural town with one lovable husband, one spoiled dog and one disinterested cat. (The adjectives are often interchangeable). An avid reader from a very early age, Jackie has an eclectic taste for books and therefore has trouble naming a favorite genre or author, though she does admit that for pure personal fantasy and 'take-me-away' books, you just can't beat a good romance.
Jackie believes in the beauty of all women and thinks most women don't see themselves as they should (herself included). She tries to make the women in her books reflect the best of 'average' in a variety of shapes, sizes, personalities and backgrounds, and each is beautiful in her own way. Some of her heroes are movie star handsome, while others are not. All her characters are beautiful in the eyes of their lovers and that, to Jackie, is the most beautiful of all.