Realistic fiction, or “realism”, resonates with readers who want to experience a situation close to their own or learn about a completely new one. Realism allows readers to gain a comprehensive understanding of the characters, their location, situation, motives, conflicts and resolutions, all whilst knowing that such a situation could actually happen.
You cannot have contemporary realistic fiction without realistic characters. They are the driving force behind what makes the story so relatable, with their mannerisms, flaws, thought patterns and behaviours all contributing to the novel’s realistic vision.
So, with that in mind, here are five ways to write realistic characters for your next realism novel:
- Draw from personal experiences
Typically, when you write realism, you are writing about something you know about. Whether it’s a situation that occurred in your city in your lifetime or it’s an ultra-personal account of something that happened to you, the best realism novels typically have some degree of autobiography or locality about them.
This means your characters should also be drawn from personal experience. After all, you know the incident, place and/or time you are writing about, so why wouldn’t a realism novel contain characters that reflect these elements?
Who are the type of characters that would propel your realism story? Are they heroic or villainous in the novel’s grand scheme? Are they happy or sad about the transpiring events and how do their feelings towards them propel the storyline?
- Make them flawed
All people, good or bad, are flawed, right? And one of the many things that makes a realism novel real is that the characters are flawed. Because, after all, if you have a hero that doesn’t have any issues it won’t be believable, right?
And an unbelievable story is not a realism novel…
Instead, ensure your characters, good and bad, have their flaws. Is your hero hiding something from their past? Do they have a problem with booze, drugs or gambling? These are very standard examples, of course, but you know what we mean – they have to be flawed to be believable.
- Write realistic dialogue
An age-old, highly effective literary device is to write how the characters would speak in real life. This could mean you can fill in the narrative with organic conversations that the characters might actually experience in a real life situation.
This being said, you don’t want to flood the novel with such conversations, why? Because this could deter too much from the actual storyline and quickly become very boring. But if you are able to fit in some time or place-relevant dialogue into the story whilst interweaving it with the plot itself, you can make the characters more believable and more relatable, too.
- Give them mannerisms
All people are different, and all people have their own quirks. By incorporating some of these realistic idiosyncrasies into your characters you could potentially make them far more realistic and relatable.
Of course, if the character’s unique mannerisms are something truly out of the ordinary then it might be a bit jarring for your audience and they might fail to resonate with it – this comes back to the notion of the characters drawing from real life experiences.
- Have them interact with other characters
People typically don’t show up on the scene out of nowhere, do they? And, for this reason, it’s important to build a relationship between your primary and secondary characters.
How did your hero know the villain before? What is your hero’s relationship with some of the secondary characters? Realism novels often have stories that have been brewing since before the first page, and these can be explored to relatable effect…