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January 16, 2013
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How to write convincing characters?

:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
OKAY. So, please note the title is not 'character creation.' Frankly, my darlings, I couldn't give a damn how you create your characters.

However, I think this forum could use a thread on how one goes about making characters that are believable, so there's two things I want from you. The answer to both is probably the same, but eh. Just think it through before posting, kthx.

1) What, to you, is a 'believable' character?
2) How do you go about making a character believable in your own stuff?


DISCLAIMERS: Use of the term 'Mary Sue' gets an automatic dick kick; I'm not reading subscript; there will be attempts to poke holes in inconsistent logic. It's good for you!
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:iconmaltese101:
maltese101 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013  Student General Artist
1. A character that's got flaws and problems throughout his/her life, and every action of why did he/she did this is understandable.

2. You know your friends and family, yes? So maybe, take a part of your mom's personality and install it to one of your OC's, and add more tweaks and changes and whatnots.
Another good method is to take a part of yourself; because who doesn't know thyself? And go with the tweaks and implants...

An advantage of that, if you write this character's POV and he/she got your personality, then you can totally relate and it would be very convincing, because it is as much as real as yourself :)
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:iconnonecansee:
nonecansee Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist
1. A believable character, for me, has to have real human flaws OR in place of that, an internal conflict (IRL, we have those anyway, like deciding between cheesecake and shortcake). I'm usually convinced when the story or novel involves the growing up of the character (i.e. childhood to teenage years, that sort of thing)
2. The advice someone taking BA Creative Writing told me that when making convincing characters, it helps if they're about 10% you/some real person you know and 90% whatever direction you want that character to be. :shrug: It also helps me write them out because I'm familiar with 10% of them, haha. For example, I can assign one of my personality flaws to them but then everything else is made up, like about appearance, family history, etc.

:D
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
The advice sounds fantastic to me, though my twist on it is a bit different than yours, I think. Start with a real person, then make them conform to the needs of the story.
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:iconnonecansee:
nonecansee Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist
Ooh, that's good too :)
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:iconjustmango:
justMANGO Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
1) What, to you, is a 'believable' character?
Satisfying a few short criteria is enough to make a character believable for me:
a. That they have definite history. Real people all grow up and live in some environment or another, and that contributes to how we reason and how we act. The way a person is conditioned by environment and history is an important justification for their action.
b. That their actions are consistent with their history. Being conditioned in a certain manner puts certain restrictions on people's actions. While exceptions do happen, most real people in most real circumstances act consistent to the conditioning of their history and living environment.
c. That they have a set of psychological traits that is consistent throughout the story. Shy and introvert people don't suddenly become extroverts over the page.
d. That their actions are consistent with their psychological traits. This should be intuitive, right?
e. For any anomalies and exceptions, have a justification that is consistent with (a) and (c). Because exceptions happen all the time. Reasonable justification that is consistent with their person makes them believable.

2) How do you go about making a character believable in your own stuff?
By doing the above. I think doing the above will get me close to having a believable character, but who knows if there's an ultimately right answer. I try to break down the reasonings of real people I know, and try to figure out how their minds work. I try to construct a similar reasoning process that mirrors an actual person's in a character.
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:iconarmonah:
Armonah Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013
I don't think a character necessarily needs to have flaws.
As in, you don't have to think of something like Kryptonite to counter-act Superman's super-ness, or have the main character be arachnophobic in a book where he has to battle giant spiders and scorpions. Those things always struck me as very convenient ways to generate drama, even if they often work.

The problem comes I think, when you never stop to consider what your character would look like to other people, and portray that in a realistic way. Superman is introduced to us as The Perfect Man and the movie never touches on the possibility that, were a super man to exist in the real world, he would probably be hated by large portions of the population. Or maybe he would be hated by people in other areas of the world because he's always protecting one of the richest places without considering everyone else. For instance. Nor do we see Superman burdened with the guilt of feeling the responsibility of the world weight down on his shoulders and being unable to lift it, despite being damn-near perfect. We don't (or rarely) see people accuse him of not preventing some disaster or another, or causing some disaster or another, which is something I would imagine happening on a daily basis, if he was real.

We don't, because the writers never consider that element (or maybe they did, but I never saw that movie, so).
Instead we get far-fetched plot devices about super evil geniuses who hate him for whatever reason, and know his only weakness (which is his vow to never kill anyone, and some rare sort of gem). There's a giant laser on the moon and the fate of the world is at stake. We have a goal that's larger than life, we have a protagonist who is determined to reach that goal, and we have powerful forces working against him. But it's still boring because none of it is relatable.

The Incredibles took this concept to its logic extreme and showed what would really happen if the world was inhabited by super heroes. And Mr. Incredible was flawed, yes (he had a short temper and he was arrogant), but those weren't the main driving forces behind the plot. Those were emotions. Perfectly reasonable emotions, like unhappiness and frustration from living far, far below his potential and wanting to feel like a goddamn super hero again. Mrs. Incredible's drive to go after her husband was because she was fearing for her marriage. Syndrome's was bitterness because he was treated like shit for not being born with super powers.

None of those things are flaws in and of themselves, but they make people do flawed things. Tháts the human element: emotions.
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:iconsurrealcachinnation:
SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013   Writer
1. To be believable, a character must have a history, goals/objectives, and flaws. A history means they didn't start existing when the story begins and cease to exist when it ends. Goals and objectives give them something to work toward, something they want or need. And flaws give them dimension and keep them from being 100% good (on the other hand, a character can't be 100% evil either; an evil character should have some redeeming quality, a reason to pity them, or at the very least totally convinced that they are the good guy).

2. I don't always create believable characters. Some of my characters are one-dimensional. Some are brats. Some are hard to relate to. Some are just boring. Making my characters more believable is my #2 goal for writing this year (second only to actually WRITING and sticking with it). But when I do manage to make believable characters, it's because I've paid attention to the things I've outlined above. It's easy to get carried away with the story and not develop characters sufficiently. Sometimes I look at something I've written and say "What the fuck is he/she even trying to do, here?" I don't have a good answer for you. I'm still learning.

P.S. I like your attitude.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ha, yeah. You can't have someone who's completely unmotivated, it's like 'what is the point of this' :stare:

Nice! And honestly, I think you can have effective caricatures of people (exaggerate certain traits). Terry Pratchett does it fairly well.

:salute:
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:iconsurrealcachinnation:
SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013   Writer
Well, yeah. Caricatures are fine, as long as they're used effectively and MEANT to be caricatures. If you're trying to create really dynamic and interesting characters and the story calls for them... then you have a problem if they end up being caricatures.

I really, really, really need to actually get into Terry Pratchett. My husband and my dad have both recommended his books to me. It'll happen. Eventually!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Ha, absolutely true.

I will say I didn't like the first couple Pratchetts I read, you've got to find the characters and storylines that appeal most.
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:iconsurrealcachinnation:
SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013   Writer
That's what most people I know have said about his books. My husband doesn't like his earlier work as much. My dad likes everything he's read, I think. I'll definitely get into his books at some point in the near future. :aww:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oooh. I actually prefer some of his older stuff, the humor is way dirtier. Also Rincewind is fun (although I know a lot of people are like 'not the best').

I don't like new Pratchett at all. :B
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:iconsurrealcachinnation:
SurrealCachinnation Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013   Writer
I think my dad does, as well. (As odd as it is to think of my dad enjoying dirty humor. :giggle:)

I'll try a little of everything, I guess. Can't tell what I like until I've read it, after all. :D
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Haha, my parents are like...PG filthy. I mean, my mother would probably make dirty jokes if she weren't all ultraconservative and shit. :B

Woo! I think the witches are pretty overall popular, so a book with them would be a good place to start ('Witches Abroad' has fun with fairytales). My all time favorite is 'Thief of Time,' which is kind of a standalone in the way a lot of his other Discworld books are standalones: you get more little jokes if you've read the earlier stuff within that sequence, but it's not strictly necessary.
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(1 Reply)
:iconenuocale:
EnuoCale Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
The most believable thing, and which little to no fiction actually fits in coherently is that they WILL say things in conversations which is not directly relevant to the plot, or anything else. People aren't always on page, and will often offhandedly tell you their opinion on bees or immigration, if they think of it, even though the story is about chess.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Wouldn't that be incredibly boring to the readers?
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:iconenuocale:
EnuoCale Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Not if it's kept to tolerable levels. If every conversation is composed of 60% this, that's not about realism, it's just about you having included conversations which were not relevant to the plot. Ones which are though can still sometimes be expected to have some things intermixed which are not. It's how talking works.
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:iconcarusmm:
carusmm Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Ass
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Dick
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:iconcheshirelies:
CheshireLies Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013
A believable character is something that is at least somewhat realistic in the laws of their own world - obviously a talking cat isn't realistic, but if in the world cats talk, all right. But creating a character that is 'unique' even to their own bizarre species, over-powered, etc, just doesn't seem interesting to me. I love a character who struggles with even every day problems, just like I do.

For me I suggest people watching, or animal watching. Research is good, like videos or articles. Find what people like, or don't like, and use those attributes as it goes. If you give a character a horrid attitude and selfish behavior, don't cry when no one really likes their personality.
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:iconzucca-xerfantes:
Zucca-Xerfantes Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
If the character has a believable set of motives, flaws and aspects that make them more *real*. Traits you would find in a real person.

For instance, having a heroic military leader type who has sacrificed everything to make this stab at his cause collapse in the middle of a hopeless battle out of pure despair and misery is not unbelievable. Someone who weeps at the belief that a cause is lost until a subordinate reminds him why they're fighting and that failure is not an option.

And a villain who is compassionate and acts in the interest of that compassion is *far* more believable than a mustache twirling stereotype. Lady Eboshi from Princess Mononoke for instance, is far more believable than any given Saturday Morning villain.
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:iconchris000:
Chris000 Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
To me, it's the little details that make them seem believable. Their thoughts, habits, flaws. As a matter of fact, the minor negatives can make a person much more convincing than their pluses. In addition to this, how do they approach their flaws or shortcomings? It reaction I think a character makes.
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:iconchris000:
Chris000 Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
I also made a conscious effort to avoid... 'That Term' partly because I don't want to start my Monday with a dick kick. Contrary to popular belief, a bad character and a Mary Sue are actually separate terms, but they can overlap, and they usually do.

Other things like their lives, their jobs, their education, these are all things that one can use to make a believable character; junction that with subtleties in their personalities, and you have a believable human (or otherwise - in this case, approach it from a different way aside from a Human) being... potentially.

Execution is everything too. One can build a chair from a good set, but that doesn't mean that it's balanced. Even with all these are taken into consideration, how you employ these elements will make or break your character. Bork it up, and you get the eight deadly words: "I don't care what happens to these people!"
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:iconpizzapotatonbacon:
PizzaPotatoNBacon Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Student General Artist
The following is opinion on the topic. To Everyone: Don't bash me if you don't agree with me.

1: Well, it depends on the setting, as the environment of someone affects a person in real life too. Imagine this, if people were to care about reading in the middle ages about life before AD, or life in the 19th century etc., they'd believe in the character as long as they'd feel that character would be real in that environment. Of course, one can imagine what it was like in recorded history, and use the general human "conscious" or mind or whatever you'd like to call it, to imagine someone in that time and what they'd do. sometimes events or conditions can make alter and create our beliefs and perspective. Everything about a character does is built by the setting, but everything a setting is to become after a character's be born into his world is built by a character(The choices they make, the people they affect, etc.).

2: I don't write much stories, nor have I created a lot of characters, but usually I form a believable character by understanding the general behavior of someone in their situation or with their history. It may seem like a thing only people with a degree in Psychology can do, but really, it can be done by anyone. Imagine someone living a humble life. Would they be impressed by someone living a lavish life? If not, why? There are many answers to that question. But really, a believable character is a diverse character.
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:icontiganusi:
tiganusi Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Professional
Fucking prose. WRITE WITHOUT CHARAC:iconbangkillplz:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Fucking poets. WRITE WITHOUT STOR:iconbangkillplz:
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:icontotallyuncreativeme:
TotallyUncreativeMe Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
A character is believable if you can come up with two or more adjectives, which all mean entirely different, sometimes contradictory things, but which all describe the character perfectly. Of course you might not want all your characters to come across like schizophrenics, but it's good to mix it up a bit, because let's face it, real people are hypocritical.
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:iconromanticnostalgia:
RomanticNostalgia Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Someone who is relate-able. Someone who is still human and who is flawed.
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:iconwyldhoney:
wyldhoney Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
1. Believable characters should be consistent in their morals (they can have a change of heart, but it needs proper motivation) and abilities (a character that passes out when running five miles will not be an adept conduct for the Earth's electromagnetic field after hiding behind a superhero's cape for half a week, no matter how many people say they're the chosen one). Also, they make up their own mind. It happens that, during a story, one of my characters suddenly looks at the script and says to me: "screw that, I'm handling this my way!"
2. By trying to make it about the characters, rather than the events. Things happen, but it's the characters that make a story out of it. :bucktooth:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:dummy:
I totally work the opposite way :giggle: if the characters won't result the outcomes I want, I've made them wrong.
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:iconwyldhoney:
wyldhoney Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Well, yeah... you are an evil overlord!
:iconzurgplz:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Nuhuuuuuuuh :innocent:
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:iconwyldhoney:
wyldhoney Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Sorry, an Evil overLADY! =p
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Still not true!
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:iconwyldhoney:
wyldhoney Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
That's what they ALL say! :sherlock:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
THEY'RE LYING AND I AM NOT.
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(1 Reply)
:iconatlantech:
Atlantech Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
1) A character that people can relate to.
2) I make my characters believable because I portray them in a realistic fashion.
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:icondrippingwords:
DrippingWords Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013  Student Writer
1. A character is real, to me, when I feel as if they are a real person; they have flaws, they make mistakes, they're not perfect, but they're lovable despite all that. Or, ya know, when I have the hots for them :eyes:

2. I try to pull characteristics from people around me; I don't make my characters perfect, and in fact, they're far from it. Some people think that having characters with powers makes the character perfect, but that's not so. A perfect character is a character who can do no wrong, not someone who possesses powers, however cool their powers may be. Character flaws also help. Because. Well. It just makes them feel more real, if they make the same mistakes that you have/could.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:lol: hot characters = yes.

I'm going to continue to be super lazy and link to my problem with flaws, etc [link]
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:icondrippingwords:
DrippingWords Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2013  Student Writer
:nod: It all has to coexist in one believable person.

:iconzukoplz:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:w00t:

ahahaha Zuko. He was fun.
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:icondrippingwords:
DrippingWords Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2013  Student Writer
:nod:

:heart:
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2013
Age of the reader matters. At least it did for me as a reader, whether trying to see a convincing character in any medium. D:
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I continue to find Bartholomew Cubbins a most compelling, realistic character.
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013
I mean readers' age.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
What the average age of a Dr Seuss reader?
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013
I don't know. I haven't read it.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Do you mean age of the character? :B
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:iconphoenixleo:
phoenixleo Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013
Age of the reader matters.
Readers' age. :B  
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
:B explainpls
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