The question I get the most is how I write characters that feel like real people.
Generally when I’m designing a human being, I deconstruct them into 7 major categories:
1. Primary Drive 2. Fear: Major and Secondary 3. Physical Desires 4. Style of self expression 5. How they express affection 6. What controls them (what they are weak for) 7. What part of them will change.
1. Primary Drive: This is generally related to the plot. What are their plot related goals? How are they pulling the plot forward? how do they make decisions? What do they think they’re doing and how do they justify doing it.
2. Fear: First, what is their deep fear? Abandonment? being consumed by power? etc. Second: tiny fears. Spiders. someone licking their neck. Small things that bother them. At least 4.
3. Physical desires. How they feel about touch. What is their perceived sexual/romantic orientation. Do their physical desires match up with their psychological desires.
4. Style of self expression: How they talk. Are they shy? Do they like to joke around and if so, how? Are they anxious or confident internally and how do they express that externally. What do words mean to them? More or less than actions? Does their socioeconomic background affect the way they present themselves socially?
How they express affection: Do they express affection through actions or words. Is expressing affection easy for them or not. How quickly do they open up to someone they like. Does their affection match up with their physical desires. how does the way they show their friends that they love them differ from how they show a potential love interest that they love them. is affection something they struggle with?
6. What controls them (what they are weak for): what are they almost entirely helpless against. What is something that influences them regardless of their own moral code. What– if driven to the end of the wire— would they reject sacrificing. What/who would they cut off their own finger for. What would they kill for, if pushed. What makes them want to curl up and never go outside again from pain. What makes them sink to their knees from weakness or relief. What would make them weep tears of joy regardless where they were and who they were in front of.
7. WHAT PART OF THEM WILL CHANGE: people develop over time. At least two of the above six categories will be altered by the storyline–either to an extreme or whittled down to nothing. When a person experiences trauma, their primary fear may change, or how they express affection may change, etc. By the time your book is over, they should have developed. And its important to decide which parts of them will be the ones that slowly get altered so you can work on monitoring it as you write. making it congruent with the plot instead of just a reaction to the plot.
But most of all, you have to treat this like you’re developing a human being. Not a “character” a living breathing person. When you talk, you use their voice. If you want them to say something and it doesn’t seem like (based on the seven characteristics above) that they would say it, what would they say instead?
If they must do something that’s forced by the plot, that they wouldn’t do based on their seven options, they can still do the thing, but how would they feel internally about doing it?
How do their seven characteristics meet/ meld with someone else’s seven and how will they change each other?
Once you can come up with all the answers to all of these questions, you begin to know your character like you’d know one of your friends. When you can place them in any AU and know how they would react.
Ten days ago I missed you.
I cried and cried and prayed you’d call me.
I told myself I’d never be happy without you.
Five days ago you called.
You got mad for no reason and reminded me of all of the reasons we didn’t work.
You stomped my broken heart into the dust and then told me we’re friends again.
Today I can’t stand you.
You’re on my mind so much for all the bad reasons.
I can’t stand anything you do, the things I use to think were cute and quirky are just plain annoying now.
Everytime I run into you I resist the urge to lash out at you and tell you how annoying you are and how i’m so much better without you.
But if I hate you so much,
Why are you still on my mind?
Person A is a heavy reader. Person B isn’t. Person A usually reads the stories to Person B when they need to calm down, from what it is, Person A never asks. Person B often falls asleep to the stories from Person A’s mouth, and can never stay up long enough to finish the stories, so all they know is the (mostly) happy beginnings, and never the ends.
Person A gives Person B their favourite book, one that’s been with them for a long time. The book has obvious signs of the love and importance it had on Person A’s life, but they know that it’s Person B’s favourite story.
You see, Person B might not notice, but Person A always keep a check of how long it takes for Person B to fall asleep when they’re reading a book. Sometimes it’s within the 3rd chapter, other times it’s on the 23rd. But when Person A reads this book to Person B, they notice how Person B struggles to stay awake, and is always concentrating so hard on not giving in to the slumber. Person A once asked Person B if they wanted to start from the middle of the book this time (because god forbid they say, ‘Where we left off’ because that means they’ll know when they fell asleep and that’s a conversation for a later (or never) time) but Person B always politely declines and says with the sweetest voices, “No, I want to hear your voice as much as possible.”
Person B shakily accepts the gift, and promises to give it back, but Person A declines and says, “No, you can have it. It’s yours. I know how much you love it, almost as much as I do. So here, read it, you fall asleep before the ending anyway.” And laughs it off, albeit awkwardly.
A few days pass since the gift giving, and Person B has had minimal contact with Person A. Then one day, as Person A was in the quiet corner of the library, back hunched over a book and nail biting in progress, Person B comes in and sits in front of Person A.
//“The ending haD ME SHOOK AF BRUH OAGJBAWLJRBGLKJBLEWRKJGB”//
“I understand why this book is your favourite, and I don’t want to copy you but it’s now my favourite too.” Person B says quietly as they watch Person A’s eyes scan 20 words a second. Person A nods slightly. “So I have a gift for you too.”
Person A looks up from the book and stares at a copy of the same book, looking newer and less worn, but still holding the words that made them laugh, cry, and die in a matter of 2 pages. Person B smiles, and says, “It’s my copy, I bought it the day before you gave me yours. I only read the first part, because it’s all I knew in your voice. So I could never bring myself to read the rest.” Person B laughs awkwardly.
“I mean, I don’t usually read books. But when you read them I suddenly picture myself there, in those pages, except it doesn’t feel like just pages, it feels real. My voice can’t do that, but yours can. So… When you gave me the book you had read to me over and over again, suddenly I could picture you, holding the book exactly the same way you are now, eyes scanning over the words so quickly that your voice fails to catch up, and the small hint of a smile in your voice and the sparkle in your eyes, and, believe me, I didn’t understand why people fell in love with reading but I think I’m in love with your reading. Whether it’s silent scanning of words, or quiet whispers of every second word, or when you voice the characters’ dialogue yourself to get the emotion right in your head because you haven’t heard the words said like that before, or when your reading it to me, I’m in love with you and your reading.”
Person B is blushing furiously and Person A is //dyING AF BECAUSE ERMAGHWRHGDHGAHGRHGA// still waiting, listening, knowing that this isn’t the end of what Person B wants to say.
“You’re the person people in books fall in love with,” Person B says with a quiet voice.
(Note from author: Hi, this is me coming back after ‘leaving’ this account. I actually never left and I knew a lot of people started following me AFTER i said I wouldn’t be back, so thank you! Also the words in between the // are just my mind going weird and wanting to add in something really stupid haha, love ya’ll.)
Hey there you guys. So something a little weird happened this morning, and I’ve been aching to tell someone.
So I wait at the bus stop with my sister every morning. Everything’s been normal up until around last week, when the weather started getting warmer. I started to notice that at 7 AM, every morning, I would look down the street and a cat would make its way quickly from behind a house, trot across the street and keep on going into another yard. Same path every time.
So I lean over to my sister and I say all hushed, “Same cat every morning. Same time. Isn’t that weird?” And I look back over to the Cat.
It has halted its daily regiment to stop dead and turn its head towards me.
The Cat does not move.
I cannot see its face.
I’m not sure if it was just the light. I’m not sure if it was turned the other way. I knew I could feel it looking at me though I could see no eyes.
I turn to my sister, getting kind of nervous, and I say, “Is it looking at me?” My sister shrugs. I look back and The Cat is crossing my lawn. It’s crossing my neighbor’s lawn.
I think something’s going on. Was It drawn out because of the heat? Where is It going? Can It hear me? For reference, I drew out what I saw.
I think something’s going on in my little town. I think I’m gonna call this series “Cryptids of Coalition County”. I’ll report any new findings to you as soon as I can. We can call The Cat specimen number one.
Thank you for reading, my dear friend. I’ll hope you’ll join me in my journey. That is, if I have much time left. Do I already know too much?
“Is Bruce in here?” Tim figured he might be— Bruce spent a lot of time in the children’s wing of Wayne Enterprises. There were a dozen or so kids in daycare most weekdays, and Bruce liked to hang out.
Tim liked to hang out too. They had nice snacks, and he’d known most of the kids since they were toddlers. And sometimes naps were mandatory.
“Conference call,” Damian told him. (For someone who claimed to hate naps, snackfood, kids, and humanity in general, Damian also spent a lot of time in the children’s wing.) “I don’t know where.”
He went back to what he was doing, which was arranging a set of pewter soldiers into a complex model of a battlefield, presumably for the benefit of the preschooler sitting next to him.
“The Battle of Issus, 333 BC.”
“Right, obviously.” Tim decided he was curious, so he settled down on the mats to watch. Damian finished his model; he pulled a marker from the art table and used it as a pointer.
“Okay. This is the Macedonian army, outnumbered but in the better tactical position, south of the Pinarus River. Their leader is Alexander the Great. And this—” He pointed to his enemy line. “—is the Achaemenid Empire. They’re about to lose.”
Damian tapped his marker on the Macedonian right. “This is the companion calvary, Alexander’s elite force, and they—” he cut off when he noticed his pupil digging in the toy bin, clearly distracted. The kid came up with a battered Transformer, which he set behind Damian’s lines.
“Elliot. Alexander did not have robots.”
“But,” said Tim, rummaging through the box himself, “did he have wizards?” He pulled a bearded magician out of the tub and held it up for Damian to see.
“You know he didn’t.”
Tim passed the wizard to Elliot. “But what if he did?”
“How would that go?”
“Abracadabra, Alexander!” Elliot yelled, gleefully smashing through Damian’s entire left flank.
“Damn it, Drake.” Damian sighed in frustration— not quite the rise Tim was hoping for, but still something. He dropped Elliot’s discarded robot back into the box.
“I don’t know what you were expecting,” Tim told him. “Elliot’s four. He’s too young for— what is this— military history?”
“He was doing fine before you showed up.” Damian started to re-erect his soldiers, but he gave it up after Elliot came in for a second pass. “Which is typical, isn’t it?”
“Thank you.” Damian crossed his arms. “Fine. I’ll bite. When is he supposed to learn this kind of thing?”
“High school? Maybe never.”
“That can’t be right.”
“Have I ever lied to you?”
“Frequently.” Damian rolled his eyes. “I’m getting a second opinion.”
Damian checked the room for potential allies. “Thomas?” he called over his shoulder, “You learned military strategy as a kid, right?”
Duke looked up from the book he was reading to a pair of kindergardeners. “Just you, man.”
“Told you.” Tim fished a bag of plastic ninja from the toy box and arranged them pointedly into a row. “How are you still surprised by this kind of thing?”
Damian glared at him. “Okay, first of all? I’m not a— hold on a second. Elliot!”
Elliot froze with a large, plastic dinosaur held aloft over the battlefield. He drew it sheepishly back to his chest. “Sorry.”
“Not in the calvary wing,” Damian told him. “You’ll scare the horses.”
“Here?” Elliot pointed to the front of the phalanx.
“Aim for his center.” Damian turned back to Tim. “Anyway. Why are you still talking to me? I thought we had an agreement about unnecessary contact.”
If you are looking for a great horror (some argue that its actually a love story) book I highly recommend this one. It’s my favorite book of all time. It has a very unconventional format and it’s one of those books that gets better with every read through.
I don’t want to give too much of the story away but the book is about a man doing a documentary on a strange house and strange things within the house.
We will be doing more book recommendations due to high requests, if you have books that you think we should share, please inbox us!