When you’re writing your main characters (MCs), you’ll want to make sure they’re as believable as possible because boring main characters that don’t seem like real people don’t keep readers interested.

There’s tons of advice out there on what specific tactics you can use to make a better MC, but it essentially boils down to creating layers to the character.

Basic character construction includes your MC having a PROBLEM they need to solve, something they WANT (what they think they want and spend much of the story pursuing) and what they NEED (what they really need, i.e. the lesson they need to learn by going through the trials of your story).

If you’ve got those three things down, you’re already off to a good start.

But you shouldn’t stop there or you can end up with a character that still comes off as fairly shallow, an MC that’s essentially just going through the motions, but is still fairly two dimensional.

To further develop your MC and give them depth, you need to start tapping into their inner emotional life and personality traits.

The basics of character development also include things like;

  • Making your character book smart OR street smart – never both!
  • Giving them passions and dislikes
  • Assigning them a Zodiac sign & favourite smell/scent
  • Sprinkle in some quirks, little habits that they’ve developed over time
  • Make them proactive or reactive the their environment – not both at the same time!
  • And, if all else fails, you can always add interest by giving them some dubious talents.

You want to take your MC’s wants and desires and think about how they affect their behaviour, how their experience makes them approach the problem that they’re trying to solve.

Figure out how your character communicates – both with themselves and with others – and start placing them in environments with other characters.

If you aren’t sure how they’d behave in a certain situation, imagine putting them in a room or on a stage and have them do some improv.

You can even throw in other characters into that constructed scene and see what happens.

If your character is supposed to act angry, what does that look like? Or if they’re sad, do they become quiet and reserved or do the emotions spill out of them?

9 questions to make your main characters more believable

  1. What small habit will your character never grow out of/stop doing?
  2. What three objects does your character value the most?
  3. What is your character’s favourite music genre? Why?
  4. If your character was to be in a show (a play, musical etc.), what would they be in and why? If they don’t want to be on-stage, what behind the scenes role would they have (directing, costumes etc.)
  5. Does your character celebrate any special occasions? What are they and why do they celebrate them?
  6. If your character could change one thing about themselves, what would it be and why?
  7. Write a TL;DR about your character. Keep it as short as possible.
  8. What seemingly insignificant memory does your character cherish?
  9. If you could have a conversation with one of your characters in one location of your world; where would it be and why?

When you want to delve even deeper into the inner workings of your characters’ minds, try using the Proust questionnaire.


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