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How Human Are Your Characters?

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To make your characters interesting to your readers, you have to make them human. To make them human, you have to give them traits with which your readers can identify. But how do you fully flesh out your characters without over-writing and boring your readers to tears?


Begin by writing a detailed, one-sentence summary of your story. Then ask yourself to whom the action will happen and from whose perspective the story will mainly be told. That person will be your main character. Next, begin building your characters to suit your message and your storyline.

As a writer, you are a natural observer of people and activities around you, and probably have a file of details gathered from people-watching. Using these physical descriptions and behavioral traits, you should be able create characters that fit your storyline. Choose carefully, making sure that your characters fit the needs of your plot. Include what they like to eat and wear, how they laugh, how they feel about dogs and children and anything else that will make your readers connect with them.

As with human beings, your characters’ everyday actions and reactions should generally fit their personalities. It is all right, however (and will add spice to the plot!) to allow your characters occasionally to behave in unexpected ways.  Also remember to include moral strengths and weaknesses in the makeup of your characters. No human is ever all good or all bad, so your characters should not be, either. Also remember to vary your characters’ speech patterns and to describe their accents and the tonal qualities of their voices.

Having your plot thoroughly worked out is, of course, very important. But the characters you develop will make or break your storyline. If your readers don’t see your characters as human and cannot identify with them, the best plot in the world will not save your book!

Derry Sampey is the senior editor for CertaPublishing.com

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