Creating believable characters can be a tough job but it’s one that needs to be done and done right. Without characters we can believe in and care about a story is just a bunch of scenes strung together like a trail of sea glass. It may be pretty but that’s about all that can be said for it. The empathy we feel for the characters, their troubles and failures and motivations, sink into us like barbs. Or the characters may be so reprehensible that we need to know what will happen next. How far will a character go? Developing such characters can be difficult for new writers of for those who have been writing for quite a while but are still learning. So, I’d like to propose two books that may be helpful. Just remember that when reading books on how to write, not every method will work for everyone. It’s important to stick with what feels right to you as going against your instincts certainly will be of no benefit to you. So hopefully these books will provide some useful information. However, there is a caveat attached to the second book which I’ll explain when I get to it. But now, I’d like to introduce the first book.
The first book is Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card. This is a fantastic resource with advice from a master story teller. The chapter about where characters come from is very interesting and provides very good tips on how to dig deep and get the most out of your characters. There are also several chapters detailing different types of characters such as the everyman or the hero and how to write them. If you find yourself unsure of how to proceed with a character or you want to become better at creating characters, then I’d highly recommend this book. This brings me to the second book.
The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein is almost an almanac of different personality types. In it you’ll find descriptions of Flamboyant personality types, Passive-Aggressive personality types, Adventurous personality types and everything in between. There are descriptions of personality variations particular to adolescents as well. In addition to traits found within the normative range of the behavioral spectrum there are chapters discussing trauma and personality disorders. Overall I’d say this is a terrific book if you’d like to see how intricate human behavior can get and incorporate this into your writing. As I said, there is a caveat. Some people consider this book to be an easy way out. Just pick a character type you like and pretty much copy and paste. I’d say however that this book is best used as a way to either generate ideas for characters or as a place to trawl for traits to add to characters. It’s simply a compact collection if possible personality types you can play with and expand upon to create cohesive and interesting characters tat help to stimulate your creativity. This can be helpful and even interesting resource that will help you get a better handle on human behavior.
Hopefully these books will prove useful and help you develop characters that will draw your readers in and keep them hooked till the last word.