How to Write Characters that are Realistic and Powerful

When a reader reads your book you want them to find it impossible to put down. And when they’re finished, you want them to tell everyone what a great book it was too! That means that your characters need to be realistic. They must be believable and as colorful as possible.

How do you write a character like that? There are a few things that work really well:


You don’t have to list every single aspect of their appearance. But, you should at least describe them well enough so that the reader can imagine them in their minds. Hair color, eye color, short or tall? Thin or plump? Wrinkled or young? And use different words to describe things like color or other aspects.

For example, don’t just say she had blue eyes. Say “her eyes were the color of a Spring morning sky”. Don’t just say he was old, say “he walked with the weight of all his 80 years on his shoulders”. Don’t just say she was tall, say “she towered above everyone she met.” You get the idea!

Names and surnames

An easy way to make your character interesting is to give him/her an unusual name! Anne Jones or John Smith are pretty boring, ordinary names. But Alexxa De Alassario and Caelan McCleod immediately suggest something interesting!

Back story

This is a tricky one. You don’t want to write paragraphs and paragraphs of each character’s history! You risk boring your reader that way. However, it helps to hint at something different about their backgrounds. For example, “Alexxa had never known what it’s like to sleep peacefully. As a child, her nights were filled with the sound of gunfire.” Or even, “Caelan grew up in a rustic cottage on the outskirts of Loch Ness. He spent his childhood roaming the shores of the lake, and the moors of the surrounding hills.”

Their internal dialogue

It’s always interesting to get a glimpse into what’s going on in someone’s head! Give your reader that glimpse by having your character think things. This is called “internal dialogue” because it’s talking, in a way, but it’s inside their heads! When you write internal dialogue, always put it in italics. It then doesn’t need to have quotation marks like normal speech. Like this: Alexxa thought to herself, why is it so dark?

Their relationships with other characters

A reader gets an idea of what type of person a character is by the way they speak to others. The same goes for their actions towards others. Do they touch a loved one softly? Or brush the hair away from their face? Do they stiffen their body when they see someone?

Perhaps they lean forward towards whoever is speaking (showing they are interested). Or the opposite—lean away or fold their arms (showing they are strict, firm or don’t like the person or what the person is saying). Describing these kinds of actions also describes the character. It also shows his/her relationships with other people without having to spell it out.

The way they react to situations

Is your character brave, or timid? Is he/she confident or shy? Does he/she speak up or keep quiet? Are they quick to get a fright? Are they loud and talkative? Or quiet and just watch what’s going on?

Look around you and take note of other people

Sometimes the best way to describe a character is to base them on someone you know well. Start watching other people—how they act, or speak, or what they look like.

Take your characters on their own journey! Then the reader goes along for the ride.

Each of your characters can also change during the story. This makes them even more interesting and easy to remember. For example, a character may start out being shy and afraid of speaking up. Then later, they learn how to overcome this—then they become the hero of their own story. As their relationships change and develop, they may change as a result too. Weaving this kind of “character development” into your story makes your characters more realistic. This also makes your storyline a lot more interesting.

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