Making Your Characters Real


I’ve got a guest post up on Ronel the Mythmaker‘s blog today about Seeing Yourself in a Book. I’m really very happy with it, but it’s an almost exact rendition of my earlier post, What Diversity in YA Meant to Me (but better, if I do say so myself – if you haven’t read the original, I suggest you go read the guest post version instead!) and I promised last time that this post would be writing-related, I thought I’d also write a short little something over here. I do hate breaking promises.

I’m taking a moment to talk about writing characters that feel real. I prefer character-driven stories, and that’s always what I write myself. The first time a new story idea pops into my mind, the main character is always the first thing I see. Parker, Ronnie, Lilith, Mia – all the MCs in books I’m writing now or will write later, they all came to me like bright lights standing out from every other thought in my head. I’m telling their stories, which means I need to get to know them as well as I know anyone.

I make character profiles and I outline and I work very hard to know as much about my characters as possible, and all these techniques I’ve learned to use are extremely helpful and wonderful tools. But I want my characters to come across as real to the reader as they are to me. I know; fictional characters are fictional. They’re not real. But that doesn’t mean they can’t feel real, that you can’t treat them like real people in order to make your story better. I’m going to tell you what I do to get my characters to be as real as I possibly can.


If you’ve read my mental health posts, you’ll know I have my fair share of issues to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I’ve found a way to both get to know my characters better and keep myself stable when I feel a panic or anxiety attack creeping up on me. I’ve started picturing my characters in real-life situations. I imagine they’re all with me, like we’re a group of friends hanging out.

I imagine, as vividly as possible, what they would say to help me through whatever situation I’m in, how they would deal with it if it was happening to them. The more I do this, not only do I get a much better grasp at who they are as people, but it also reminds me of something very important. My characters? They’re strong. I put them through so much in their stories and sure, they have their moments of weakness, but ultimately they always have the strength to come through. That strength comes from me. I wouldn’t be able to write it, to put it inside them, if I didn’t have it to begin with.

Being surrounded by my characters helps me remember that, at the same time as it lets me see them as real people, just another group on the metro, talking and interacting like they were any other humans (okay, they’re not all humans but that’s beside the point).

Yesterday, I was in a particularly bad place. I’m a walking ball of fear at the moment because my workplace is moving to a new office tomorrow and it will be everything my anxiety can’t handle. I’m worried about how it will go. So I was sitting on the metro on my way to work – last day in the old, safe office – and everything came crashing down on me. I didn’t know what to do, I was about to lose it in the middle of the metro with dozens of people around me. I tried other ways to calm down and nothing worked, so eventually I reached for my characters. Because I know them so well they’re almost real to me, I summoned up the one particular character I knew would best be able to understand and deal with a situation like this. I imagined Parker there with me, talking to me, helping me through it like only she could, and it freaking worked. She told me to fight through the bad stuff, like she always did, even when it felt impossible. I told her she had something to fight for – I should know; I gave it to her. An image of my niece flickered through my head and Parker said, “So do you.” She knew exactly how to reach me, just like I knew she would. Because I made her to be so real to me it’s like talking to a dear friend.


Treating your characters as real people, imagining and “interacting” with them in real life situations is a great way to learn more about them, to get a vivid image of who they are so you can use that on the page. Yes, you’ll feel a little crazy at first, having conversations in your head with imaginary people, but trust me. Your writing will benefit from it.

That’s it, sorry about the shortness but it felt selfish to write a long post over here when I also have the guest post. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel to write.

Rain S.writing-1043622_960_720


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