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Writing Believable Characters by Ritu Bhathal

I am thrilled today to host my good friend and fellow SpellBound Books author, Ritu Bhathal, today to explain how she ensures the characters in her novels come to life. Thank you for your time today, Ritu. Over to you.


Thank you for hosting me today, Val. Have you ever read a story, and found yourself disengaged with the characters?

They seem far too perfect, or absolutely everything that could be wrong with a person is there in that one character?

Or they just don’t seem real?

Believable?

It is often so because you can’t relate with them in any way, shape, or form. This is where, as an author, it is part of our multi-faceted job to create characters who readers meet, and then want to learn more about. We want our readers to care about what happens to these fictional people that we have created.


Now, I’m sure you will have encountered people who hear you are a writer, and they tell you myriad stories, because ‘that might be a good one to write about,’ but us writers don’t just go around picking stories up from people, willy-nilly.


No, we go one better than that. We store that person in our character bible. I don’t mean we go and write that person into our books; it’s more registering traits and personality. Because there is that other thing people often think: just because you are an author, each character you write about must be based on someone you know. Or yourself. I would say there is an element of truth in that belief.


I find myself people watching, noticing behaviours and chemistry between different people, real people, and that goes into my little catalogue. Those little things will find themselves added to my character profile, as and when appropriate. And what is a character profile, you might ask?


It is something you need as an author, especially when you are writing novels and series. It’s all well and good knowing the character name, and basic information like what they look like, but it is equally important to give the character a background, a history, as well as their personal information.


· Where was this person born?

· What kind of upbringing did they have?

· Siblings?

· Both parents still on the scene?

· What sort of education do they have behind them?

· Where do they work, if at all?

· Dream job or not?

· Likes?

· Dislikes?

· Do they have any quirks, unusual habits?

· Why?

· When were they born?

· Star sign?

· Favourite colour?

· Pets?

That’s not an exhaustive list, but all these elements of your character’s life, whether mentioned in the story or not, will influence how they behave and the decisions they make. Because that is reality. And, that same profile needs to be created for others in the story, too, along with how the characters connect to one another.


It’s also a great little tool to refer to when you forget something you may have referred to in a previous part of the book ,and you want to make sure you haven’t used a wrong name, or given your character a second birthday, rather like one of our monarchs!


Your characters, even the protagonists, need weaknesses, too. Faults. Because none of us are perfect.


Those weaknesses allow you to create one of your arcs for your character, too, showing how a weakness can be overcome, or even become a strength, as the story evolves. A reader should want to be friends with that character, or the person they are reading about should evoke feelings, positive or negative.


When a reader comes back to you, saying they loved your characters, and they want to know more about their lives, that they cared, that is how you know your character is believable.

The Author


Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.


From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is credited to her mother. The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her writing, from fiction to poetry. Winning little writing competitions at school and locally encouraged her to continue writing.

As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes.


A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a side-line to her writing!


She also writes a blog, www.butismileanyway.com, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, and Best Book Blog in 2019.


Ritu is happily married and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the fur baby Sonu Singh.


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