How To Make Fictional Characters Real
There is a scene in Toy Story 3 where the protagonists were attempting to escape a fiery inferno that would destroy them all.
They had tried everything to escape, but in a moment they all realized that no matter how hard they ran against the grain, they were doomed.
They stopped their useless attempts to scramble their way out of their destination and embraced each other while awaiting their incineration.
And in that moment, though they were fictional, not to mention animated, they were real.
Not realistic. Real.
The characters, who (spoiler alert – but honestly this movie came out in 2010 so you should have seen it 734 times by now) make it out alive, had at that point brought the viewer to the point of emotional investment. In fact, they made many viewers cry. For animated characters.
They were real. They had to be real in order to make it work on an emotional level.
Your Characters Have Meaning
Making your fictional characters real isn’t only possible, it’s necessary for your writing to have meaning in someone else’s life, which is the only reason they want to read in the first place, if they realize it on such a deep level or not.
The good news is that it isn’t luck that gets us to the point where our characters are real.
Making characters real takes preparation and planning. It takes work, but the outcome will be a refreshing reality that hits home with readers.
You Can Make Your Characters Come To Life
When I wrote my first novel, The Dream, I had a story raging inside of me that I had to tell. My planning could have been better, but at least I had reality backing me up. But the story wasn’t about me, it was about feelings that I have on the so-called American Dream.
I was able to make Timmy Emerson come to life because I was invested in his character. I wanted to help him figure out his problems. I wanted his solution to be real because his problems were real.
You don’t want your characters to just be realistic. You want them to have the qualities of a real person with a real story. Here’s how to do just that.
7 Easy Steps To Creating Real Fictional Characters
1) Start Creating Your Character
If your character is not real, your story will never be real, and your audience will become someone else’s audience.
And I don’t just mean your protagonist. All of your characters need to go through this same process. Your antagonist and your minor characters need to have the same thought and detail poured into them so that your audience cares about the outcome.
Before you go any further, you have to create characters that have the ability to be real. They don’t have to be human, or even living creatures, but they have to be relatable to readers.
2) Give Your Character Motivation
If a reader is going to stick with a story, they’re going to have to have a reason, and that reason is the same as the protagonist’s reason for having a story told about them.
Your audience needs a reason to root for your protagonist.
They want to find love. They want to defeat evil. They want to win the big game.
Your audience will only care if those things, at the heart of the matter, are things they want to do too.
People want to find love. They want to defeat evil. They want to win the big game.
Find something that your audience wants to do and then make it so that your character wants to do that thing too.
3) Enhance Your Character With Personality
Tim Duncan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His only problem? He isn’t known for his personality.
It wasn’t until he suffered heartbreaking defeat in the 2013 NBA championship series that people started to find him and his team, the San Antonio Spurs, a little bit interesting, even though they had already won four championships in his career.
When they came back and won in 2014 against the vilified Miami Heat (the team that had beaten them the year before) they had completed their comeback quest. And this time it was with people actually caring about the outcome going in their favor.
They became real people to the viewing public.
You need to find what makes your characters real. Do they have flaws? Do they have weaknesses? Do they have strengths that will them overcome their faults? Are they interesting in how they go about doing so?
Find what makes your character uniquely able to go through the story in an interesting way.
4) Know Your Character’s Background
Something has to have made your character the way they are today.
Are they timid? Maybe because they were treated poorly as children.
Are they brave? Maybe because they had overcome previous foes.
Are they intelligent? Maybe because they spent their youth buried in books.
Everything that your character goes through will challenge their abilities. Some things will be easier than others for them to accomplish.
You need to know their strengths and weaknesses so that you can throw things in their way to make them stronger over time.
Because your reader wants to be stronger over time. They want to be better than they are now. So your character needs to become better.
5) Bring Your Character Through Obstacles
Everything that your characters has gone through in their lives has made them what they are and brought them to the point of your story.
Now they have to face challenges. It is your job to determine what will challenge them in order for them to show that obstacles in life can be overcome.
This is what makes your protagonist a hero.
Your job as a writer is to make your characters into heroes and villains. Obstacles show their true identity.
6) Know Your Character Better Than Your Audience Ever Will
Not everything you know about your character will make it to the page.
Just like if you were writing a memoir, you wouldn’t have time to write every detail of your life down, but you would know about it and how it affected everything else in your life.
What makes your character the way that they are? Only you will know everything about your character. It’s your job to determine what’s important enough to put into the story and what only you need to know in order to tell the story.
7) Write Your Story
This last of these seven steps is obvious, but it is critical that writers understand that it is in fact the last step, not the first.
Every writer has the itch to want to shoot first and ask questions later.
We want to tell our story and then iron out the details.
But that will get you into trouble. The better prepared you are before writing your story the better it will be in the long run. Understand what makes your character real, then help them prove it.
Don’t Let Your Characters Go To Waste
Writing a novel can be a daunting journey, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’ve learned something about creating your characters today, then you’re well on your way to the ultimate task of writing fiction that readers want. I want to help you on your way.
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