Writing characters that feel realistic can be a challenge. In today’s video I give tips on how to make your character seem realistic within the context of your novel. I also provide a list of personality traits and physical traits that are commonly seen as unrealistic by readers.
- When characters don’t feel realistic, it’s normally because they have an overabundance of positive traits.
- Characters don’t have to seem realistic in the sense that they could exist in reality. They just need to seem realistic or possible within the world of your novel.
- Internal consistency is another way to make characters feel more realistic. When the character traits, flaw, and motivation all work together, they create a cohesive and realistic whole.
Traits Commonly Seen as Unrealistic
It’s okay to use some of these unrealistic traits so long as they are serving a function in the novel and are not included purely for the purpose of making the character seem better or idealistic.
Using several of these character traits could cause readers to dislike your character and could be seen as a red flag to agents and editors that a writer is an amateur. Of course this depends on how the traits are executed within the novel.
Character traits to use sparingly:
- An unusual appearance
- An extremely attractive appearance
- High contrast between the hair and skin (such as white skin and black hair, or black skin and blond hair)
- Unusual or unnatural eye colors, especially purple eyes.
- A normal appearance that is unnaturally mesmerizing
- Extreme skills or unique skills in a wide variety of areas
- Skills that were not learned
- Uselessness (no skills) yet is treated as valuable by other characters in a group
- An idealistic lifestyle (dates models, drives fast cars, lives in a mansion)
Questions to Ask About Your Novel
1.Does you protagonist have any unrealistic traits?
It’s important for the character to seem realistic within the context of your novel. So long as your character has traits that he or she could have realistically learned, acquired, or been born with, then it’s okay to have a unique or unusual character. But it’s a good idea to avoid giving your character purple eyes or supermodel girlfriends just because it’s cool.
2. Does your protagonist have any traits that could be better justified?
If your main character is a whiz with computers, where did he or she learn that skill? It can be very helpful to provide backstory that explains where skills came from. It’s okay for the character to be highly skilled just because a topic interests them, but make sure to plant those seeds in the reader’s mind early on. A character who suddenly busts out karate moves during the climax is not going to feel realistic.
If you have any questions about writing a realistic character, please post it in the comments below.
Comment Question: Have you read any characters that seemed too unrealistic to believe? What about them made them so unrealistic?
Workshop #1 critiques will be posted later today and every day next week. If you didn’t get a chance to submit last week, the submission form is still open!
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