Creating Believable Characters From the World Around Us

Believable characters keep the reader turning pages.

Believable characters keep the reader turning pages.

Are your characters believable? Believable characters resonate with readers. They keep us reading to the end. Flat, one dimensional main characters rarely see the light of publication. (I say rarely because some self-pub books have flat main characters, and those soon end up in the dark recesses of the unpurchased archives or the author’s garage.) Believable characters live in the mind of the reader as the story unfolds. Creating believable characters comes from our experience with people around us.

Actors like Writers create characters from real life

Writers are often stereotyped as introverts living a solitary existence far from the real world. Although solitude is necessary to create our stories, we draw from our own lives to create our fiction characters. Watching TV and movies can’t compare to the real McCoy even though actors do exactly what writers do—they create characters based on real people they have observed.

Tyler Perry as Medea.

Tyler Perry as Medea.

Tyler Perry, actor, playwright and director shaped his character Medea after an aunt. Tyler captured her voice inflections for his out-there Protagonist.

My newest characters

If you have been following my blog, you know my latest novel has composite characters in it. New Duet is populated with versions of people I know. These versions have traits of a variety of friends and family I have met along the way.

Every week I help my elderly parents. Their interaction with the world around them, if I really look, is more fascinating than frustrating. I watch my mother talk to total strangers. Usually it’s a silly remark or joke. Once she stood in the checkout line with a pair of baby shoes and asked the man behind her in line. “Do you think they’ll fit me?” His expression—priceless.

Yes, real-life experiences fuel how we shape our characters.

Clare, an elderly character, in my new novel New Duet says humorous off-the-cuff things all the time. Clare’s words are uniquely her own, but the flavor, my mom. How Mom interacts with the younger generation makes her a delight—and a great pattern for Clare.


Composite characters morph

My eldest son returned from the army with PTSD, and my youngest son is a dog groomer. The two experiences mesh together as my wounded warrior character Dan Sweeney. He has a shepherd pit mix service dog. Dan’s character has elements of what our family has experienced with my son coping with PTSD and other injuries. Dan’s interaction with his dog come from my youngest son’s knowledge of dog training and the psychology of the breed that is Brutus, the service dog. Anyone who knows my sons would not see them in Dan. He has morphed into his own man as the story unfolds.

How have people in your life influenced your fictional world? Share it in the comments. I’d love to hear your story.

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