Making It Real

You have problems in life, don’t you?

You have worries…you have fears.

You have quirks and things that make you special and unique.

Some things upset you.

Some things make you happy.

You’re gonna have enemies…

You’re gonna have best friends.

It’s been happening far more often than I like. I’m very passionate about it, and when it fails to meet what I hold as a high standard, I’m often disappointed and wondering what on earth we as Christian writers are doing wrong.

I’m talking about the characters in our fictional writing.

Many Christian authors fail to create engaging characters that we can relate to. I’ve tossed aside many books because the characters are dry and so formulated. They do this. Act this way. There are no surprises or unique characteristics about them.

What are we doing wrong?

  1. We put our characters in a perfect world.

Unfortunately, I’ve found that many younger Christian writers create this perfect world for their characters to live in. Everything is safe and sound, and nothing really happens to shake their character’s world. They go from point A to point B with zero conflict and wordy or redundant dialogue. None of the characters have problems, or if they do, they’re either not fleshed out, or they really aren’t problems but slight annoyances.

Now I’m not saying to have an explosion every three seconds, but put your character through a trial that will grow them as a person and change their lives throughout the story.

2. We don’t spend enough time discovering who are characters are or what quirks make them totally unique.

I’m trying to be better at this. I bought a notebook and binder to help me keep track of who my characters are and who I want them to be. Even the minor characters need to have some sort of backstory. Why does this particular character act the way they do? What has happened in their lives to make them bitter or joyful? How has their childhood impacted who they are? Is your character outwardly timid, but has a heart of courage? Maybe your character is a real jerk, but inside they’ve been crushed by someone or something.

3. We’re afraid to deal with real life stuff.

I know that we need to be careful in portraying certain subjects, but many young authors shy away from tough topics. We’re afraid to make one of our characters disobey their parents. We’re afraid to place our character in an abusive family situation. We’re afraid to let our characters experience hardship and loneliness. These things are real. They happen.

Friends…when we’re writing, we need to create REAL characters. We are essentially creating people. These people need to be real for them to be believable. Readers want someone they can relate to. Readers want someone to encourage them as they battle life’s problems. They don’t want perfect characters who never do anything unexpected and are always feeling great.

I encourage you to look at your most recent writing project. Is each one of your characters their own person? Are their names special to who they are? Does every one of your characters have their own voice?

Let’s start writing quality stories and change the world!

5 thoughts on “Making It Real”

  1. This is so important! I’ve been working on this of late, developing my characters and making them real. Wonderful post!

    One thing on real life issues… make sure it’s appropriate to the audience. I’ve been reading and discarding so many books that want to put inappropriate information in children’s and YA fiction. A good rule of thumb is making sure you don’t write anything you would be embarrassed to read allowed to Jesus.

    Thank you for this post!

    1. Thanks, Ryana.

      Yes, I agree completely. My hope is that the authors of children’s books will still make their characters vibrant and unique but still keep the plot clean. 🙂

  2. YES!!! I was just reading a writing book along these lines. Vibrant characters are sadly missing in so many books. While some of my characters are a bit shallow, I’ve been working to make them more real. Coming up with a backstory is one of my favorite things to do when developing a character!

    And yes, that perfect world thing has always annoyed me. Where did anyone get the idea that this is a perfect world?!

    I agree with Ryana Lynn… real life issues should be in there, but make it age appropriate.

  3. Laura–Well written!  An engaging story often shows the characters struggling to make sense of things, maybe falling flat first with bad habits, but then coming to see the error of their ways.  Thanks for the reminder.  I’ve been stuck with a story I’m trying to write.  Can’t seem to find the right problems to solve.  When I finally get them, the whole story will come together!  Wish me luck!   XXOOMrs.C You’re mixing “our” and “are”.  Do you see where?  xo  

  4. Oh, yes! I agree, but have you ever heard of the acrostic CLART?
    It helped me start my characters and make them really dynamic.
    C stands for conversation, what does your character say.
    L stands for looks, what do they look like?
    A stands for actions, what do they do?
    R stands for reputation, what do others say about them?
    and T stands for thoughts, what do they think about others and or themself ?
    I use this for all my characters, and it really helps me pin down their traits and personality.
    Hope it helps any fellow writers.

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