How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 3: Hero of Their Own Story

Hi everyone!

I’m back again to talk a little more about how to bring your characters to life in an engaging and realistic way. 

The reason that I think this is important actually relates to the fact that, when you have a character which is solid and believable, it makes the story that you’re trying to write almost able to tell itself. All you have to do is follow that character and understand the choices that they make. But I’m going to be talking a little more about that in the future! 

Today, I’m going to focus on how characters live inside your universe, along with several things that you want to remember when you’re thinking about bringing those characters to life. 

The first thing to remember about every single character – every single person – in your setting is that every character is the hero of their own story

Importantly, that might not be the story you’re telling today. You may have read some of my previous articles, where I say that the main characters should be the most important person in the universe at the time you’re telling the story. Obviously, for almost all of the population that can never be true, but they can still be the most important person in that place at that time. Remember that every other character has a reason to exist. There’s a purpose to their life that they’re going to achieve at some point – Robin was always going to grow to be a hero in his own right!

Secondly, bearing this in mind, don’t forget that the character exists among many other characters in some kind of community – whether that’s a small number of survivors in a post apocalyptic setting, like the Resident Evil movies, or whether it’s a huge city that they’re just one of the faceless crowd within. They exist among these other characters, and they’ll interact with them and be interacted with in a certain way. 

This means that you can easily model a wider society, because most of them will act whatever is the norm in your universe… but if you’re trying to make a character stand out, if you’re trying to make it realistic and memorable, think of a way in which it can be unique, and will therefore be treated differently by other characters who live in that universe.

Coming back to the point about every character being the hero of their own story, remember that there’s history to every single character! Every person has a story that brought them from where they were when they were born to where they are today. No matter what that story might be, it exists, and it’s very likely that you’re not going to tell it – you may not even want to tell that story!

Instead, remember that it might make people act in an odd way to certain situations. A history of parental abuse might cause a character to react slightly oddly to a father figure appearing in the story. Or a lost job might start making people think that they don’t trust the mentor figure that they’ve come across, don’t entirely believe that what they’re saying is the way things are going to be. 

You might not have the opportunity to explain why this is in the story you weave, but I think that it’s very important that you understand why it is. That way, even if you never explain, you’ll have the opportunity to be consistent in the way that they behave. There will always be other clues based on the way they are acting, even if you don’t say directly! 

I hope that’s been helpful and I hope that you’re finding this series interesting, so please check in with us again. I’ll be back next week with some more of my thoughts about making characters real! 

– Ed

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