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Crafting Compelling Characters: The Art of Believability by Tracy Stewart

I am pleased to welcome author Tracy Stewart to the blog today to discuss how she creates compelling characters in her novels. Thank you for your time today, Tracy. Over to you!


I’m delighted to have been invited to chat with you and your readers, Val, on a subject very close to my writer’s heart. Thanks so much for the opportunity. Creating compelling, convincing fictional characters is crucial for drawing readers into your story and making them care about the narrative. Our characters do, quite literally, breathe life into our stories.


But how do you make these characters leap off the page and into your readers' hearts and minds? In this article, we'll explore the art of creating believable characters that will keep your readers engaged from the first page to the last, and beyond.

Here are my key considerations for bringing fictional people to life.


Realistic Backgrounds: Start by giving your characters backgrounds that make sense within the context of your story. Consider their upbringing, education, and experiences that shape their personalities.

Motivations and Goals: What drives your characters? Their goals and motivations should be well-defined and consistent throughout the story.


Flaws and Imperfections: Perfect characters can be boring. Explore their flaws and vulnerabilities, as these make them relatable and human.


Show, Don't Tell: Instead of explicitly stating a character's traits, reveal them through their actions, words, and interactions with others. Let the readers infer who they are.


Secrets and Surprises: Sprinkle hints of your characters' pasts and secrets throughout the story. These can create intrigue and add layers to their personalities.

But one of my favourite ways is…


Drawing from Real Life:


Observation: One of the most effective ways to create realistic characters is by observing people around you. Pay attention to their quirks, habits, and idiosyncrasies. These little details really do breathe life into your characters. I always have a notebook with me and frequently pull it out in cafes or on trains to note something about a physical trait, characteristic or random comment!

However, a word of warning when using this device to develop your characters…


Be Discreet: While drawing inspiration from real people is a valuable resource, it's essential to be discreet and respectful. Avoid creating characters that are direct copies of individuals you know. You can mix and match traits from different people to craft a character with a distinctive personality. Real-life experiences can also provide powerful, convincing layers for characters and plots. When I wrote my novella trilogy, now being published by Spellbound Books, and short story collections I wove in events I’d personally experienced and witnessed. It wasn’t always easy or comfortable to do but, according to reader reviews, it made for a much more connected and relatable read. I’d definitely encourage you to explore these two aspects further;


Emotional Authenticity: Real-life experiences can provide insight into the emotional aspects of your characters. Think about how you and people you know react to joy, sorrow, anger, or fear.


Stories and Anecdotes: Real-life stories and anecdotes can be excellent starting points for fictional events in your characters' lives.


Creating believable characters is an art that combines careful planning with a deep understanding and respect for human nature. Drawing inspiration from the people you know can be a powerful tool in your character development toolkit. As you observe, combine traits, and discreetly glean insights from real-life individuals and draw from your own well of life, you'll infuse your characters with a unique authenticity that resonates with readers. So, go ahead, start weaving those compelling characters into your narratives, and watch your fiction come alive! Happy writing!

The Author

Tracy Stewart is a fiction author who came late to writing in her 50’s.

She previously lived in France for almost ten years where she found a lovely small writing group and never looked back! All things French often have a way of finding of infiltrating my stories.

She is also an unconventional writing mentor and book coach, editor and ghostwriter. She founded Freshly Press where she motivates and supports writers to tell their stories, and transform their writing lives through a combination of mindfulness and sharing wisdom for self development alongside the craft of writing.


The Links

Instagram, Facebook and Medium @tracystewartauthor

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