Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 21, 2009

Writing Believable Characters

If you don’t have believable characters in your story, no matter what else you do, your work will fall flat. The characters in your book are the most important element.  It is through their thoughts, speech, and actions that help tell your story. What is the secret to building believable characters? Writer’s thoughts vary, but to build a believable character you must know your character. When you write them they must start to feel like a real person. So how do you make that happen?

Character profiles are good, but they still only give factual statistics – they don’t bring the character alive. One technique writers use to get to know their characters is called the, “Interview Exercise”. That’s right you interview your characters. To do this properly you must use rapid writing – write without stopping to think or edit. Just put down whatever comes to mind. This exercise will bring all those statistics in your character profile together and make your characters suddenly come alive – talking and acting in a way uniquely their own.


Take out a blank piece of paper or start a new file on your computer.  Write this in the first person viewpoint of the interviewer. Start by having yourself going to the interview and then just write. Where is the interview? Where are your characters? Why are you interviewing them? Don’t stop or correct, just write whatever comes to mind.

Don’t prepare any questions in advance. Just write and see where it takes you. Ask whatever questions come to mind and let your characters answer however they want. If they want to ignore you and not answer, then let them –or maybe they get so aggravated that they storm out.  If they do, chase after them and see how they act. Remember, you’re not writing a great work of literature, your just getting to know your characters, so have fun!

When it comes time to write their dialog, Richard Peck says write it standing up.  He thinks by walking around and playing the parts, the dialog will sound more natural.  Worth a try, since it definitely works for him.


  1. Some great tips. Will definitely have to try. Thanks so much for the post:)


  2. Buffy,

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. It encourages me to keep doing the blog.




  3. I tried Mr. Peck’s advice about walking around and playing the parts–while doing my grocery shopping. Man, did folks ever get out of my way fast! Shopping was a breeze! Great suggestion!


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