by Hannah Brown, Age 15, United Kingdom
Artwork by Cathy Yan
You know how it is. You’re just sitting there, not thinking about anything, or perhaps you’re writing so furiously your fingers feel like they’re on fire. Then—BOOM!–a new character strolls into your head. Their name, much of their background, their place in the story—or perhaps their own story—is fully formed in your mind. And what can you do but greet them kindly, offer them a cup of tea, and say they can sit down.
Many writers say their story writes itself, and I know all too well how true that is. In November two years ago, I was doing NaNoWriMo, and I remember my character, Rosen, being far too headstrong, running off where she wasn’t supposed to and crying over her the premature death of her father and brother. So what can you do?
Help them along. When your characters write you into a hole, take a deep breath, give yourself a few slaps in the face, and get those minxes out of there. You’re the guardian angel that helps them with all the troubles they may have. They rely on you to save their skins. Sure, you may cry when you kill their beloved goldfish, and they are upset for days, but you are there for your characters.
What makes a character realistic is their background, personality, and characteristics. These are the reasons why they are the way they are. Your character relies on you, the writer, to make sure your readers know this information. You don’t just let them karate-kick their way out of plot holes before telling your reader that they’ve been doing martial arts since birth. They can’t call their parents “Mom” and “Dad” for five chapters before you remember to point out that they’re adopted.
Most of all, when your characters get you into trouble, whatever you do, don’t give up on them. Your characters need you. Love your characters like yourself. They’re a reflection of who we really want to be. Believe in your characters, and that will reflect in your work. Make them real, and readers will empathize and cry when they do. Make them believe the characters are their best friends. Most of all, it’ll make them remember you.
Hannah Brown is a 15 year old writer from England. She enjoys writing as entertainment for herself and very seldom friends who happen to find her similes funny (half a pineapple lying in the street, anyone?).