WriteMentor's tips for writing book characters

Characters are the beating heart of every good book. They drive the plot, create the core conflict, and take the readers on an emotional journey. Without the characters, there is no story. But often, creating authentic book characters can be tricky. Sometimes they can feel flat, when we want them to jump out of the page.

Here are WriteMentor‘s 5 tips for creating believable book characters who will live in the minds of your readers long after the final page.

Find out what motivates your book character

Both good guys and bad guys are motivated by wants and needs. Understand what drives your book character based on their personality and their role in the story. The whole story then revolves around your character trying to fulfil these wants and needs – all while overcoming obstacles that get in their way.

Give your book character a backstory

Ground these motivations in a believable backstory. What defining moment in their life made them who they are today? Like real people, our characters should be shaped by their past – both through the experiences they’d had and they people they’ve met along the way.

Make your character complex

Perfect people make for boring characters. Readers want messiness, complexity and outright chaos. Make sure your character is fully human by giving them both strengths and flaws. Remember – every lovable character can also be loathsome, and every loathsome character has a part of them that is lovable (however hidden that might be).

Create conflict in your book

Just as your readers want a messy character, so do they want a messy book. And by messy we mean conflict. Not necessarily the wielding swords type, but anything that gets in the way of your character’s goals. This could be external conflict – other characters, an event – and/or internal conflict, where a character is at odds with themselves. Raise the stakes throughout the book by escalating the conflict – to the point where your reader asks: is this character going to be okay?

Enable your character to change

A character rarely ends a story in the same way they started. They are shaped by the journey you take them on in the book. The challenges they face, the characters they meet, the situations you place them in. At the end of the book, maybe they’ve learnt a lesson, or changed their mind about a character. Maybe their whole personality have changed, or they have different wants and needs.

Want to learn more about book characters? WriteMentor is running a 5-week character course led by author Emma Read. Find out about this and our other courses.

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