Have you ever read a book and found the characters completely plastic? Compare that to something that you find yourself nodding to the main character's every action and laughing alongside them or crying for them as they hurt. What's the difference?
In today's blog, I will elaborate on how I create my characters and turn them from Pinocchio into a real boy. This Blue Fairy Aitsuji will sprinkle some fairy dust of enlightenment for writers who wish to have real imaginary friends too!
Patreons to credit: -This could be you. Join now.-
#1: Refer to Real People
Have you ever came across someone at the train station and thought that they were absolutely hot? How about that old gardener in your school who always eats his boxed lunch alone at the bottom of an old stairwell you pass by every Friday afternoon on your way home?
These are real people that you can refer to and study. Behind every person who you come across in life, there is a story that you may or may not know. It isn't completely necessary to know their life from the moment of their birth. As a writer, it is good to develop a second nature curiosity for such things. Thinking about how these people came to become the people they become helps us to design fictional characters more easily.
Of course, some characters could be based on an idealised version of someone close to us like a family member or a friend. However, as it is still completely impossible to know another person's thinking completely, the writer should decide just how many of the original traits should be kept. You don't have to follow the template strictly, real people are simply guidelines for a fictional world. Unlike your friends and family, fictional characters are not bound by the rules of reality.
#2: Give 3 Traits, 2 Quirks and 1 Flaw
This is a standard template. I shared this before in my other blog about creating character profiles. You can read that blog for more details about how I derived these details.
Every writer has a preference but I prefer my guidelines to be less strict so that I have room to improvise with a character according to various situations. The ability to expand and retract a character's reactions according to the plot is what brings it to life.
Basically, a realistic character should not be perfect. Humans are fucked up, characters should be fucked up as well. Humans have a past, characters should have a past too. Humans have emotions and ambitions, why won't characters have them? Humans have relations with other humans, characters should also form their own relations with other characters.
#3: Reference to Personality Tests for Reaction Defaults
It doesn't matter what personality tests you use. You can use the DISC, MBTI or even Enneagram profiling to help you. However, the key point is that these tests give you a measurement standard for predictable and regular reactions to certain situations that you can borrow for your story.
I know of writers who use horoscopes and fortune-telling to assist them in creating the romantic chemistry for their stories. It was a wonderful story that many readers related to and honestly, it worked for them.
A reaction does not have to be unique or original. Sometimes, simple is best and things that are relatable often amuse readers more than a writer would think. A sure-fire formula to keep your readers engaged is to introduce a relatable reaction to an exciting situation.
#4: Expand on an Existing Inner Quality
This point are for experiential writers. Much like experiential learning, an author must first understand the concept or feeling before writing or imagining a scene. I happen to be that sort of writer. It's also the reason why I sought out as many crazy experiences as I possibly can from ghost-hunting to death-defying roller coasters.
For me, writing a realistic main character is difficult because I have to know them better than the other characters. Their every thought is my thought. Their every emotion is what I go through. As such, I find that it is easiest to create a main character by pulling a part of my soul and expanding on it.
It is an art to extrapolate a single side into a full circle. I can't explain how I do this really well but then again, I've grown accustomed to living with different people inside my head since I was young as a side effect of c-PTSD. It's easy for me to create a new persona from a single trait so that I can adapt to certain situations as part of my survival instincts.
#5: Grow with your Characters
Lastly, it is important to remember that if you want your characters to be real, they have to also reflect the habits of real people. Living things will grow, react to changes and eventually die. Characters should develop with the life that they have been given and not be restricted by the invisible strings a writer is controlling.
Although my points are a little different from this professional blog, I think this method works well for me. The easiest way to create a realistic character is to virtualise a real person into the fictional world. With enough experience, the line between what is real and fictional starts to blur and you'll find it easier to breathe life into inked names.