People often ask writers about how we bring our characters to life. How do we make them relatable and realistic? In my case, I treat the realms inside my mind as real places, with real people. And as with the real world, every single person, entity, or other kind of being living in my Realms has their own story. Everyone has a background and an adventure. I went into the ways of giving life to your characters in this post.
1# Real Is Interesting
To kick this off, I’ll point to the fact that most of us find other people fascinating. And I’m talking about us creatives, especially writers. One of the most beneficial things you can do to elevate your character creation game is to observe real people. Just try not to get caught with your pencil on the notepad, glaring at some poor sap with a curious gander.
We are also quite stupendous if I say so myself. The feats humans are capable of pulling off are just plain amazing. Stories of mothers having superhuman strength to be able to save their children have surely not passed any of us by. Not to mention the many transformation tales from various people whose lives were in shambles.
So why not think of your characters are real people? Try giving them a little bit more love and attention. They might just reward you tenfold as time passes. In addition, your subconscious will take them that much more seriously.
2# Real People Are Relatable
If your characters are not alive and real, how could they be relatable? Nobody likes a stiff block with an emotional scale of a teaspoon. What’s more, as we’ve witnessed, not many praise the character’s that got it all together from the beginning. Mary Sue’s, we call them. Not only are those kinds of people not relatable, they are seldom believable in any way. Nothing is quite as devastating for a story.
Meanwhile, characters with flaws and struggles are the stuff of legends. Who wouldn’t want to follow the journey of a protagonist when they are going through similar things with us? We as humans have problems in all areas of our lives. Be it mental, physical, or social. A good, real character will have at least one of those issues to work on. Readers love a good growth story!
Don’t be afraid of overpowered characters either, though. I read a Chinese novel by the name of Shura’s Wrath, and loved it! You can say what you wish about the offensiveness of it to the modern woke mob, but the story had twists and turns to spare. Furthermore, they were all related to the protagonist’s struggles and mission. Best of all, the plot points had to become beyond the usual, since the character was already so strong in all aspects of his life.
3# The World Filled With People Is Alive
Ah, the problem of sidekicks and filler characters. The rejects of the world who only serve to check you into the hotel. Or better yet, they kind of just sit there among the other people as movie extras. But, my friends, what if they had a life too?
Think about why you placed the people exactly there. Is this person trying to get some limelight? Do they have something profound to say? Perhaps they are there to let you know that on the other side of the planet, something interesting happened. You will never know if you turn your gaze away from these prospects. Everything, and everyone, has a time, place, and purpose.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to explore the person within the current story. You can just take note of them, and maybe spin some lines when you feel like it. Just know that this random dude in the queue two spaces behind you was also alive. Look at him, give him a friendly nod of acknowledgment, and move on. And feel your world be alive with its people.
4# Infinite Ideas and Continuation
Need I say more? Take our beloved planet Earth, for example. We are walking among nearly 9 billion people (as of writing this article)! 9 billion people mean there are just as many unique stories out there. All the writers of the world wouldn’t be able to go through them all. Especially when there seem to be about 130 million books in the world.
One world is already plenty of material to work with, even if you stick to realism. In my case, however, I have 4 worlds that all live in harmony within my mind. That means I could potentially have 36 BILLION people, assuming each world has one planet the size of our Earth. How crazy is that?
The trick is to know whose stories to tell. We can’t save everyone. Not everybody can be a hero. Some people are there to be the background. The cleaners, blue-collars, the passers-by. I find that treating my characters as real people gives me the weight I need to write my worlds. When 9 billion REAL lives are at stake, you better believe the pain of the hero transfers in a more impactful way.
5# The Nagging Voices Will Stop
They just won’t stop nagging at you, will they? Everyone shouting together ‘Hey, I’m here too!’. That’s it, at least when it comes to me. Those characters that turn out to be golden material often pester me until I give them their space. It means more stories to write, and more time spent on narratives I didn’t plan on. But in the end, they all serve a crucial purpose in the final realm.
When treated as we’d treat any other being, the characters will also work with you. You are not some God trying to make them do your bidding. You are simply an entity, an observer, there to tell their story. If you find yourself in a slump, not able to continue, try asking your people for guidance. It helped me when I got stuck with a story.
In the end, the choice is yours. Some prefer to leave the wall-flowers to their peace, and others, like me, take them into our creative cradles. For me, the choice was easy, as I’ve always been imaginative. Whatever I created became alive, in good and in bad. It’s not always a blessing to have such a mind combined with partial photo memory. The thing I’ve seen in my darkest times are enough to make anyone’s blood curdle!
Yet, once mastered, this ability becomes an extraordinary strength. The worlds you build will bustle with vibrant life. The possibilities for other stories within that realm are plentiful. The work you do will be riddled with meaning. And most of all, whenever you get back into it, it’s like returning home.