Tag Archives: backstory

How to create a believable character

A blog post for The Story Mint.

No matter what genre you are writing in, you will have to create characters that populate your story. Creating characters might sound easy, give them a name and carry on with the story, right? Ever read a story where the character seems like a cardboard cut-out? Or seems erratic in his/her behaviour? The main reason this happens is because the character wasn’t created ahead of the story.

I found a character worksheet on the Harlequin website many years ago that truly helped me with creating a believable character. Even the peripheral ones. The easy answer is that for any character to be believable, you, as the writer must know everything about him/her. If the character is real in your mind you will automatically show this in your writing.

Your first start is to capture the physical and emotional characteristics that you want this person to have. Add their age, colouring, height, emotional baggage (we all have it), motivations, state of mind, occupation.

Then you add their connections to other characters and how they relate to each other. These characters also need description so add that as well. Even if your character is a fisherman with five daughters, but his only part in the story is going to be a short interaction with your main character for two or three paragraphs. His family life shaped him and knowing this will define how he will react. This is called backstory and every character has this.

By building a complete history for each character, that person becomes real in your mind and the interaction with your other characters will reflect a well-rounded character even though you may not use ninety percent of his/her background in your story.

 

The character worksheet is no longer available on Harlequin’s website so I’m adding it here:

 

CHARACTER WORKSHEET

 

Physical Characteristics

Name:

Age:

Birth date:

Birthplace:

Height

Weight:

Body Type:

Hair:

Eyes:

Nose:

Mouth

Clothes:

Personality Profile

Strenghts:

Weaknesses:

Ambition:

Beliefs:

Self-perception:

How others see him/her:

Hobbies:

Moral values:

Eccentricities:

Most defining characteristic:

Current Situation

Marital Status:

Educational background:

Occupation:

Food preferences:

Drink preferences:

Car:

Pets:

Present Problem:

How does this problem get worse?

How does this problem get resolved?

Synopsis about childhood:

Relationships

Spouse:

Occupation:

Location:

Defining Characteristics:

History:

Effect on plot line:

Best friend:

Marital Status:

Occupation:

Location:

Defining Characteristics:

History:

Effect on plot line:

Mother:

Marital Status:

Occupation:

Location:

Defining Characteristics:

History:

Effect on plot line:

Father:

Marital Status:

Occupation:

Location:

Defining Characteristics:

History:

Effect on plot line:

Child:

Age:

Occupation:

Location:

Spouse:

Grandchildren:

Defining Characteristics:

History:

Effect on plot line:

Sibling:

Age:

Marital Status:

Occupation:

Location:

Defining Characteristics:

History:

Effect on plot line:

Effect of previous relationships on present situation: