Pretend People!

It's true. When I don't behave myself by society's standards, I AM a character! But this post is more about my struggle with creating believable fictional characters.

So this is what I do. As a story appears in my brain, I jot down the storyline and then the characters as they “arrive”.  As quick as I can, I pull out my complex character building sheets and form written opinions on who I think my characters should be. I write fast and furious with details. After the story is written (draft after draft), it becomes clear that I (often) don’t know my characters at all. The main one(s) especially. By this time, the story is plotted around some of those character traits. It's like they resent my telling them who they should become. It's like having teenagers in the house again.
Sometimes I will try simpler character sheets, which I prefer, but they seem too simple even for short stories.  They often lack.
THEN I read somewhere that writers don't need to tell the reader everything about the characters and setting. Readers want to form some of their own imagery regarding the setting and characters. To confuse myself even more, I read reviews of books to see what the reader wants. Some reader/reviewers state that the characters are not developed enough and other reviewers (same book) say the characters jumped off pages.
Do you see my dilemma? Human people are causing me anxiety with their mixed messages and so are my pretend people.
Any tips?


  1. In a nutshell, everyone has an opinion and you can't please everyone!

  2. You must follow your instincts -- they seldom will lead you astray. :-) Writing characters that seem real is hard. Real people are flawed, yet they usually act true to their basic nature. Real people have blind-spots that have them do what seems destructive to those looking on. To write riveting characters, we have to manage to make what they say and do enticing even if they are Hannibal Lector. Real people are not static; they change, either evolving or devolving. Seeing someone grow or disintergrate before your eyes is riveting to a reader who cares about the character. Just some thoughts. :-)

  3. I like a character with some room for me to fill in details for myself. That said, they have to act in congruent ways, and keep me interested.
    Perfection? Not a happening thing. In life or in books.

  4. Hi Teresa - I admire you for wanting to write a fiction book ... I'd completely fail with characters ... but I guess you have to go with someone you know (mixed up if necessary) and translate that character into your own in the particular period you want them to live in. Good luck is all I can say - cheers Hilary

  5. The moment you try to please everyone is the moment you fail. Write your best characters and then let the fly.

    1. LOL - I hear ya! My characters walk around in my head for a while and spend a lot of time in the climax scene of the story - but it tkaes a lot of work to find out the rest!!!

  6. Follow your instincts. If you know the details, they will show up on the page and in the reader's imaginations, even if you don't spell it out exactly.

  7. When I'm writing fiction I try to envision a character through their whole life story, but most of that story I don't tell within the framework of the story I'm telling. I don't want to confuse readers with extraneous details that have nothing to do with the story at hand.

    But, yeah, I think every reader (and critic) is looking for what they prefer and will praise or denigrate according to their personal whims.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment.

Popular Posts