Creating Believable Characters

Characters can be fun to create. You want your heroes to be heroic and your villains to be villainous. Right? Of course. In the real world, though, no one is all good or all bad. Humans are a mixture of both. We all have strengths and weaknesses. So any characters you create need to reflect that.

No one is all good. We all have strengths and weaknesses. If you want to create a believable character, you need to give it strengths and weaknesses. A hero with no flaws is not believable. Such a hero isn’t even interesting. True heroism starts with overcoming flaws to rise to greatness. Those are the characters (and people) we remember. The same is true for villains. Give them something that makes your audience have a tiny bit of sympathy to your villain. Either show the character’s descent into villainy. Or have the character show that it believes what it’s doing is the right thing to do.

Put a mix of flaws and strengths into your characters. It will help your readers relate better to your characters. That’s the key to making your characters believable. You want your readers to root for your heroes. You might even want them to feel a little sad when the villain fails. In other circumstances, they might have been right about what to do to solve the story problem.

Your villain might be a murderer, but show him or her as loving his or her dog or cat. Show their reason for the murder. Even crazy people have reasons for what they do. Show it in your story. Show the hero being afraid. True courage is the ability to act despite fear.

Of course, you need to balance showing the goodness or frailty of your characters. Keep in mind that no one is all good or all evil. Indiana Jones was a hero, but he was afraid of snakes. Macgyver was afraid of heights. They didn’t let those fears stop them from doing what they had to do. That’s why they are believable, and memorable, characters.

Do your homework. Build your characters with some flaws and then show those flaws. Take a coward and raise him or her over his or her fears to heroism. Have your villain devolve into villainy. Show the character trying to do the right thing but using the wrong methods. Flawed characters are more believable than those without a flaw. They are also more interesting.

In the end, your readers will close your story with satisfaction at the end. That’s your goal. The reader should want to know how it all ends. You don’t want them to stop reading because of boredom or disbelief somewhere in the middle of the story. Believable characters doing believable things are the way you will achieve that goal.

So go on. Let your characters fumble their way to the conclusion of the story. Show them tripping over their own ideals on the way to villainy. Show them trying to avoid their heroism. It’s the human thing to do. Now go create some flawed characters and write them a story.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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Posted in General Opinion, Writing Techniques

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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