Do you know how to develop believable characters?

I confess, I don’t – not always.

Sometimes, just when I think I’ve written a real-life character who walks and talks like flesh and blood, boom I’ve created Frank.frankenstein-monster-983567_640

You know, that pieced together, patch quilt looking monster that walks like he’s got a stick up his ass. Right, that Frank.

I’m in the beginning stages of a new YA novel, I hope. And fleshing out the characters is more of a challenge that I anticipated.

Back to the drawing board, I opened Scrivener and studied my character sheets.paper-dolls-14611_640 Paper dolls, that’s the word that popped in my mind. Row after row of paper dolls.
Reading my story, I went over the tips for writing believable characters.

  • Show don’t tell, check.check-40319_640
  • Place characters in a situation that reveal and move plot, check.
  • Reveal more and more about characters as the story goes along, check.

So what was I missing? The answer eluded me until I read a post by David McFarland where he mentioned adding too many characters. Ding, ding, ding. Alarms rang.  I went back to the computer.

What happens if a story has too many characters?

  • The reader can become confused. (Who did what, went where and found?)
  • Readers find it difficult to bond with any one character in a cast of many.
  • Can’t hate a character if you’re unsure who to hate. (see above.)
  • Readers give up and never finish the book, or worse give us a bad review.

Whew! I’ve got to go back now and throw out some of those useless characters. Lots of rewriting to do.

Thanks, David! Y’all might want to hop over and read more in his blog at David McFarland’s Writing Tips.

Have you ever added too many characters to a story?

What about to few? Is that as bad?

For more tips on writing great characters, I’ve added links at the bottom.

I’d love to hear from you! Click the “write me” tab or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at jean.cogdell and, stop by and say hey! The lights are on and I’m waiting.

Please remember to share this post with your Twitter  peeps and Facebook fans.

Five Traps and Tips for Character Development

Three Great Ways To Bring Your Character Alive



8 thoughts on “Do you know how to develop believable characters?

  1. One thing I always do when creating a character is I find an image the the guy or gal. It helps me decide what their backstory is, how they like to dress, what they’re more likely to eat and how they eat it. It puts a more real image in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

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