Real in the eye of the beholder, that is. This week, I’ve been asked to write a post on how to create 3D characters – so here goes!
When reading a story, characters are either 2D or 3D: They either are not real to the reader, or real to the reader. Ideally, you want your characters to be that 3D person, but sometimes they fall flat (aah, puns). So how to you make them pop up and make your reader feel like they really know them? Here’s a few tips:
- Give them a solid back story. Everyone you meet, even a newborn baby, will have a back story. Maybe they’re adopted, or they are mainly normal but get abnormally good grades. You can even create a timeline for your characters, from their birth to their death, and fill in what happens in all the years of their life. If you click the link just above, it’ll take you to an example I found that you can use!
- Make them have flaws – and make these flaws matter. No, not the flaws like ‘stubborn’. Well, I guess you can have those flaws, but make them have more flaws than that! Maybe they’re bad at school subjects? Maybe they act first, think later? What you also need to do with these flaws is make them matter to the story. For example, in the book I’m writing, my MC is terrified to riding – but to save a horse from going to the knackers yard, she has to overcome those fears and ride him in an event (cliche, I know). There’s no point in their flaw being ‘act first, think later’ if everything always works out fine!
- Make them have quirks. Everyone has quirks. Maybe your character is superstitious and throws salt over their shoulder if they spill any. Maybe they salute magpies. One of my characters, Cal, always bites his lip and Alice tells him off for it. Make these quirks continuous throughout the book, if they’re going to be – or, if they have a dramatic character development, maybe they realise that they have to get rid of these quirks. Maybe they develop as a nervous tick. If you can’t think of any quirks, sit in a busy coffee shop, with a notebook and pen, and just people watch. You’ll be amazed.
- Make them develop as a character. There’s no point in a book where the MC stays continuous all the way throughout. They change because what’s happening around them means they have to. Make sure that your story flows with these changes, too.
- Make your descriptions of a character strong enough that the reader can easily paint a picture of them in their minds. Have them toss a strand of brown hair over their shoulder. Maybe they feel sweat on pale palms. They wipe a red, cold nose. They hit their head on the top of the bus, or can’t fit in the bus seats. For your reader to emphasis with someone, they have to have an image of them in their minds – and if you don’t make it, they will, and, to you, what they make might be wrong to how they actually are. For more info, click here!
- Make their personality differ from others. That’s what makes your character stand out, and, if you look around, you’ll see that real life people have different personalities from their friends, too; their likes, dislikes, etc.
- Eating, sleeping and pooping. I’m pretty sure I’ve done a post on this before – ah, yes, here it is. Just make sure you keep this one in mind.
- Don’t rule out religions and other races. For example, a Satanic character. Or a character that is a black male, but isn’t as buff as most stereotypical books say. Don’t be afraid to research stuff like this, or ask about it. If you go to school/college, there’s bound to be an RE teacher that you can ask about religions!
- Keep their actions human. If they’ve just broken up with someone they love, or someone they love has dumped them for no reason, they’re bound to be upset, for a few hours at the very least. If someone’s died, they are going to mourn. You want your characters to appear human, they have to act human. If they’ve just been sick, they aren’t going to be stuffing their faces in the next minute.
- Make sure that they have a motive. And no, I’m not just talking about the bad guy here. Sometimes the good guys need a motive – if they think that there’s a high chance of dying shortly, are they really going to go to that war? Do they need someone to give them a push? *Cough*Coulson*Cough*.
I cannot really think of any more. If you need any more tips, look at your friends or family. What makes them seem real (apart from the fact that they are)? Do they try and do a good turn every day? Do they say a prayer each night? Carry around a notebook and jot down anything that you could put with a character to make them seem more real to your readers – because isn’t that just what you want?
Hope that helped!
Questions, hints, thoughts? Shoot.