• TL Zempel

How to Create Believable Characters

Pay attention to how real people behave in real situations and circumstances. And take notes.

The worst part about reading (and the first reason I put down a new book) is meeting characters who are fake, contrived, too perfect, too greedy, too….whatever.

Write a segment of action and dialogue and give it to a group of friends to critique. Ask them specifics, such as -

  • Would you want to be a friend of any of these characters?

  • Can you see yourself in any of them?

  • Do you find things to both like and dislike about each character? (You should, if I’ve done my job.)

  • Do they talk like real people? If not, give me examples of what you mean? (Hint: Real people, in conversation, rarely talk in complete, grammatically correct sentences. Leave out subjects. Use words incorrectly for their part of speech.)

  • Does this scene leave you wondering what will happen next? (If it doesn’t, then you’ve lost your audience.)

Creating and writing strong and memorable characters is the most challenging aspect to creating a good book. That is, after you’ve conceived the idea for the book. :-)

By the way, my character Wendy Taylor in Finishing School, has won both accolades and boos from my audiences. That makes her a real person. We all have both our admirers and our detractors. But decide for yourself when you read the book.