Creating Plausible Characters
What makes a great story? There are many categories that contribute to a great story, but we are going to talk about one in particular: Characters.
Without the characters, there would be no story for someone to read or watch. There would be no White Witch to cast a spell of endless winter on the land of Narnia…
There would be no millionaire playboy to become a superhero…
There would be no hobbit to travel across Middle-Earth to destroy the One Ring…
The characters are the most important part of a story, no matter what genre. They make mistakes, they chase the bad guy. They make the story.
First, I am going to ask you to do something: Think of your favorite story of all-time, whether it be from a movie, television show, or a novel. What makes it your favorite? Chances are that it is the characters. You like the thrill? It’s because you have connected with the characters. You like the drama? It’s because you have connected with the characters.
Now, when you sit down to write your screenplay or novel, one of the very first things that you need to do is create a character with whom your readers/viewers will be able to form a connection. In fact, this is the most important thing when it comes to starting a story. Remember, your character(s) are the elements that create the story.
So how do you create memorable, identifiable characters? Here are some tips:
1. Give them weaknesses. It is a well-known fact that we humans have weaknesses. Really, that is what makes us human, yes? Taking this into consideration, think about your personal weaknesses. Is it a drug addiction? Is it a tendency to gossip? Do you think you think you are too fat? Too skinny? Write these down on a sheet of paper and give them a good looking over. Once you have done this, start giving your character(s) those types of weaknesses. It doesn’t have to specifically be the things you deal with, but doing so will allow you to create a character that is more believable.
2. Give them strengths. With every weakness is a strength. And no, I don’t mean the lifting-five-hundred-pounds type. Do the same thing I had you do above. Write down your strengths. If you don’t know what these are, ask your friends, parents, siblings, or whoever else you know well. After this, give your character(s) specific strengths. This could be the ability to be encouraging to others, optimism, or a number of any other kind of things. If your character(s) don’t have strengths, they won’t be able to push through trials and hardships. When it comes to villains, having a villain without their strengths would make for a pretty boring story. Can you imagine a weak emperor in Star Wars? No, neither can I.
3. Be truthful. Writers are a vulnerable lot. We take our experiences and struggles and put them down on a page for others to read (or watch, if you are writing a screenplay). We figuratively bleed on the page for all to see. If you are a writer but have no idea what I am talking about, I can guarantee that you will eventually. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for you is to be truthful. Let your feelings, emotions, and struggles bleed out onto the page. Through the characters in your story, your audience will be able to have a deeper connection than they have had with any other story.
There are other ways to create great characters, but if you stick with the three above, I can guarantee that your characters will be embraced by everyone.
*You can learn more about creating believable characters for your stories at the Center for Creative Media in their film acting school. CCM is a Christian film school that offers a great foundation in your Christian faith and helps you to learn more and supports you with practical, hands-on experience in our acting school and digital film school.