How to create a well-rounded, believable character

I think for me, as a reader, the necessity of having well-rounded believable characters that capture my heart, my attention, or my hormones is vital. Reading a book where you just don’t like the main character is honestly painful and not something I can hang with for too terribly long.

One of the best tools I’ve found in creating a good character is to sketch him or her out from the beginning. Let me give you an example from my own debut novel, Deceived.

Name: Samantha Parker

Age: 17

Appearance: Deep blue eyes, black shoulder length-hair (straight), around 5’8’’. Athletic build with curves where needed, but not overtly feminine. No physical markings on her body other than the infinity symbol she receives throughout the book.

Personality: Sam has a sardonic sense of humor and keeps a pretty negative outlook on things. She allows very few people to get close to her heart and even though she fights it, she wants love more than anything else in the world. She’s a bit cocky about basketball and put-off by having to do anything she doesn’t want to do.

She is uber smart at mathematics (like me!) and loves to eat southern cooked meals.

Backstory: She is an orphan and her backstory will slowly unwind. She’s the daughter of Pandora and her father isn’t know – nor may he ever be. Figure this out? She was adopted at 14-15 by the Parkers and dislikes her little sister Megan, but not as much as the readers might first believe. (this goes on as I figure it out too!)

Notes: (these I fill in as I go – things I need to remember) Sam’s an orphan and has no one in her life really but Julie. She has issues with intimacy because she feels like loss is inevitable. She’s got special abilities that I need to bring out in book 2. (List goes on and on as I write)

 

You could add a million more categories, but the idea is that if you start with the sketch you’ll know where you are headed and it will help you remain consistent in your application of that character, their looks and personality.

Another thing is that I always attune the character to someone in my own life. It’s easier to press attitudes, characteristics, sayings and come backs into the script if the character is mimicking someone you are around a lot. This isn’t a must by any means, but it sure makes things easier in my opinion.

For me, Samantha, noted above, is a mix of my two teenage daughter, Katelyn and Allison and me. She has a mixture of their personalities, their humor and is involved in the things my girls are involved in.

Brent, in my story is mirrored after my little brother, and where I took liberty making the character more of a playboy (not much more) than my brother, nothing brought me more joy or sadness than to see the character come to life and experience various situations/scenarios.

Lastly… do you like your characters? All of them? Is there a richness to them that makes them authentic and real or could you say to yourself, “That’s so farfetched. No one I know is like that.”  This doesn’t mean that some of them won’t be more difficult to write than others, but it does mean that in order to have a well-rounded character, we have to step back and assess how each one of them speaks to us and whether or not we’d want to know them, smack them or throw them off a cliff.

Hope that helps! It’s a trick I use for my characters and I can honestly say that I like and even love all of them.

L.

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