How to make your characters believable within the context of your story?
There are nuances that flow from this question: If, for example, you are going to write a Harry Potter type story, then your characters will need to be able to live and breathe within that thought paradigm.
It follows that the first thought you have to address before you craft your story’s characters is: What is the thought paradigm within which the characters must live and breathe? Will your fiction be skewed towards fantasy or reality and where on the spectrum do you want it to sit?
Another important question one has to ask is: “Who do you want to read your story?” The answer will evolve by way of what is known in the marketing world as a profile demographic. How old? What gender? What income bracket? What IQ? What level of education? Employed or unemployed? Married or single? Left brain (logical/pragmatic) or right brain (imaginative/visionary) oriented? What do they do for entertainment? Sports lover? Music?
Once you have done this, then the subject heading above evolves to become: “How to make your characters believable to the people who are most likely to read your story, within the context your story?”
Once you have defined the thought paradigm and the target reader profile, you need to ask yourself: “What am I going to write about?” and there are four criteria here:
- What genre?
- What is the story going to be about?
- How is it going to end?
- How is it going to begin?
All of this will be in very rough terms. You haven’t yet reached the stage where you have to think about plot or themes. By way of example: “I want to write a realistic science fiction story that talks about life as it might be in (say) 20 years time. I want it to end in catastrophe – where only a few people will be left alive – and I want it to begin with the explosion of technologies that are emerging today. Along the way, I want one/some potentially dangerous technology/ies to be embraced in an irresponsible manner.”
By way of example of a possible target market for such a novel: “Readers will be predominantly male, but maybe (say) 25% female, and they will be fairly sophisticated with IQs of over 110. They will likely be between the ages of 18 and 45. At the younger level, there is likely to be a high level of unemployment but a concomitant high interest in “technology” and IT based games, and at the older level there is likely to be a degree of adult sophistication.”
Okay, now you have a picture of the target reader in your mind, what specific characters will your story need and what personality profiles will they have that render them believable and memorable to those readers, in context of this story?
They won’t all pop out at once, but maybe 80% will. Keep a database of characters and start to define who they are, what they look like, what they do in their personal and business lives, why they are important, what are their personality profiles and their unusual talents; and what are their idiosyncrasies? Could any have latent mental health issues?
Importantly, no one is perfect in real life. Everyone has some flaw or another. What “flaws” will your characters have? Make sure that the flaws are clearly defined because that is what will add to both their believability and their “interestingness”.
This one has a slight stutter, that one is loud, this one dresses with a particular – but predictable – flair, that one is a gregarious womaniser, this one is a scientist but suffers from epilepsy, that one is a banker who is anal about whether his shirts are clean and he keeps three clean shirts in his bottom drawer at the office. This one is argumentative and likes to disagree for the sake of it, that one is a royal pain in the arse but he/she is tolerated because he/she seems to have supernatural intuition. These examples emphasise that it is the idiosyncrasies of the individuals that differentiate them from other characters. WHO are they? It’s not just about physical looks. Novels that survive in literature tend to have deeply interesting characters. Arguably, that is one reason why the Harry Potter series was so successful.
Now that you have well defined (say) 80% of your characters, you can start to write the storyline. Whether you move to generate the plot and/or themes immediately seems to me to be a matter of style. If you’re anally analytical you will plan it in anal detail; if you’re crazy creative you’ll wing it. Those are two ends of the spectrum. Most people don’t sit at either end, they’re somewhere in the middle. Do what is comfortable for you.
Along the way, you’ll probably find you don’t have enough characters, so you will have to develop some “on the fly”. Make sure they are all recognisable as people and make sure that they talk and behave in character as the story develops. That way, the reader will develop an affinity for some and a dislike for others and the reader will enjoy the story more than he/she would if they have to ask: “Now who was that character again?”
There is an energy force in the world—known to the Ancients—that has largely escaped the interest of the modern day world. Why? There are allusions to this energy in the Chinese I-Ching, in the Hebrew Torah, in the Christian Bible, in the Hindu Sanskrit Ramayana and in the Muslim Holy Qur'an. Its force is strongest within the Earth's magnetic triangles.
Near one of these--the Bermuda Triangle--circumstances bring together four very different people. Patrick Gallagher is a mining engineer searching for a viable alternative to fossil fuels; Tara Geoffrey, an airline pilot on holidays in the Caribbean; Yehuda Rosenberg, a physicist preoccupied with ancient history; and Mehmet Kuhl, a minerals broker, a Sufi Muslim with an unusual past. Can they unravel the secrets of the Ancients that may also hold the answer to the future of civilization?
About the Author:
In 1987, Brian and his young family migrated from South Africa to Australia where he was employed in Citicorp’s Venture Capital division. He was expecting that Natural Gas would become the world’s next energy paradigm but, surprisingly, it was slow in coming. He then became conscious of the raw power of self-serving vested interests to trump what – from an ethical perspective – should have been society’s greater interests.
Eventually, in 2005, with encouragement from his long suffering wife, Denise, he decided to do something about what he was witnessing: Beyond Neanderthal was the result; The Last Finesse is the prequel.
The Last Finesse is Brian’s second factional novel. Both were written for the simultaneous entertainment and invigoration of the thinking element of society. It is a prequel to Beyond Neanderthal, which takes a visionary view of humanity’s future, provided we can sublimate our Neanderthal drive to entrench pecking orders in society. The Last Finesse is more “now” oriented. Together, these two books reflect a holistic, right brain/left brain view of the challenges faced by humanity; and how we might meet them. All our problems – including the mountain of debt that casts its shadow over the world’s wallowing economy – are soluble.
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – MA (15+)
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