MICHELE PAIGE HOLMES spoke to our chapter on “Believable Characters” it was excellent and just what we were hoping for. Here are some highlights from her PowerPoint which she handed out for us to share:
Before you can create any [believable characters], with any kind of success, it is imperative that you KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. Take the time to learn about them, record their history, discover what makes them do the things they do, believe what they believe, want the things they want. Make a character bible. After that:
A character becomes credible (real) to the reader through:
1. Believable Dialogue (speech, catch phrases): Think Captain Jack Sparrow. He has an accent, a unique tone and uses words like “savvy” and “mate.” He also uses lots and lots of adverbs to make his point. “I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically.” His consistency makes him real. Michele gave us this wonderful quote from Kay Stockham:
Dialogue is ninety percent of character.
and this one from Beth Morrow:
Potentially more powerful than any passage of prose, well written dialogue can…heighten tension, deepen character, reveal inner conflict and set the emotional tone of your story. ~ from “I Can’t Believe She Said That: Creating Dynamic Characters Through Authentic Dialogue” October 2006, Romance Writers Report
2. Thoughts (internal dialogue): This can be accomplished using italics to share a character’s thoughts. However, internal dialogue doesn’t have to be italics. Showing a character’s action/reaction can do this in less words and often give even more detail.
Random UVW example: When a girl introduces her boyfriend to her rival, the guy could be staring off at this new girl. When his girlfriend asks a question it’s like she isn’t there. This interaction shows a lot about what was being said within his internal dialogue.
3. Actions: They are self-explanatory in creating believable characters, but actions have to make sense.
Random UVW example: Characters act according to what the believe and feel. Setting up a character who’s been starving for three days is not going to be energetic, happy, and would probably take the first chance at food they got unless something magical kept them sustained.
Michele shared this quote from Colleen Thompson:
As you’re developing characters, it’s important to remember that most novel protagonists are on an emotional journey. They begin with flaws or wounds that prevent them from finding, giving, and accepting love within their ordinary world. The growth they need is frightening and painful, something most human beings resist unless forced into it. Your job is to provide that force. ~ Romance Writers Report – December 2007
4. Character interactions: Michele proposed that everything should be an interaction. This is 1-3 combined. For interactions to be believable characters must each want something and they need to care about it…but they don’t have to want the same thing. Character interactions work when characters must rely on each other to meet their goal. Michele shared this quote which is also from Colleen Thompson:
Who a character really is becomes defined by his choices under pressure. Choices define character, and if we don’t give the characters significant choices, we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to create deeper, more interesting characters in our stories. ~ Romance Writers Report – December 2007
Thanks Michele for your excellent presentation. It was so helpful!