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
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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