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Writing Tips: Creating Believable Characters

Writing Tips: Creating Believable Characters

If you spend much time at all on this blog, you will soon come to find that characters are my very favorite thing about…well…anything! Whether I’m reading, playing Dungeons and Dragons, or trying a new video game, the characters are what I love the most. All of the different personalities and development you see intrigues me, so it’s no surprise that the characters that I create and write about are incredibly important to me.

Because of this, I’ve thought of my top five pieces of advice for creating realistic characters that I hope can help you with your own writing.

First, Characters Must be Unique.

If you look around the next time you’re anywhere in public, you can see all of the different people that there are. No two people look alike, talk alike, act alike, etc. Likewise, your characters must be different from each other. Nobody wants to read about a teenage hero who meets another teenage hero who go on a quest to save the land, along the way meeting an older man who acts the same way as the teenage heroes…you get my drift.

The easiest way to make some differences in characters is by altering appearances. This might come as a no-brainer, but think more than just hair and eye color. Does your character have muscle, or are they scrawny? What about glasses? Are there any scars, birthmarks, or tattoos that could differentiate them from another character? Some of these can even give you good story inspiration when thinking about how or why some of these markings happened.

Next, give their personalities some uniqueness! Is your old miner a gruff man with a temper? What about your gentle, kind shopkeeper who happens to love cats? Not only this, but give them quirks. Perhaps this gruff miner secretly loves drawing in his spare time and has notebooks full of sketches. Or maybe this shopkeeper gambles on the side.

Lastly, don’t forget about body language! This can be incredibly subtle, but it will make a huge difference. For example, one of my characters never stands with his back to a doorway, as he never gives enemies an opportunity to sneak up on him. Another one of my character’s ears turn pink when he’s angry or embarrassed. Perhaps characters walk a certain way or tilt their heads to the side when they’re thinking about something. It’s little actions like this that will better help to make your characters unique.

Second, Heroes Must be Flawed, and Villains Must Have Good Qualities.

Nobody in life is perfect. Ever. People can think that they are, but in reality, everyone is flawed. Make your characters have flaws, as well. If you create these perfect heroes that never do anything wrong, always acting for the betterment of everyone around them, readers won’t be able to relate to them. They’ll be these larger than life characters, myth-like.

Think about Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. He’s the perfect hero for the galaxy, yet he acts very quickly and brashly at times. Aang from Avatar the Last Airbender is the Avatar, he’s the one who is supposed to help stop the Fire Nation. However, despite this huge responsibility, he can act incredibly childish at times. Batman, this huge superhero, is flawed by his intense paranoia. All of these heroes are still heroes, and we love them despite (and possibly because of) their flaws, but their flaws help us to better relate to them and understand them.

Likewise, don’t have your villains be only evil. Yes, villains are bad and should be portrayed as such. However, they must have some qualities about them that readers can relate to and maybe sympathize with, as well. Some of the scariest villains I’ve ever read about were the villains that I genuinely liked and could understand why they were doing what they were doing. For example, take a villain set on bringing the destruction of a kingdom. Perhaps his reason is that the kingdom had been raiding and pillaging the villain’s for years, and the villain merely wanted it to end. However, what sets this villain apart from a hero is the way he goes about bringing this revenge. Instead of just taking down the monarchs, he decides to destroy the entire kingdom, purging it of all of the potential threats to his homeland. Always remember that most villains see themselves as heroes.

Third, Characters Must be Properly Motivated.

The plot of your story is built by the characters. Events happen that effect the characters, and the driving force of plot is the way your characters respond to this. Their responses are determined by their motivations.

Every character in your book, from your main hero to the side character that’s only in one chapter, are motivated by something. Some are motivated by their desire to save their family, others maybe by the prospect of money. These motivations will effect their actions throughout the entire book. If a character strays from their motivations, it will make them seem less believable.

For example, a character motivated by greed might only stick around long enough while the reward is worth the risk, whereas a character who is out to save their family or friends might take more risks. Perhaps a character is only out to make a bigger name for himself. He’ll do anything that gets him more publicity and admiration. Because of this, it might be harder for him to do anything that could hurt his reputation.

Motivations are something to keep in mind when writing your book. They can help you get out of a block, when you don’t know how to continue. Just think about how your character can next get close to achieving his desire.

Fourth, Characters need to Develop.

People learn from their actions. Nobody who burns their hand on a hot stove is going to do it again. Similarly, your characters must develop and learn as the story progresses. Characters who try to storm a castle and find themselves unprepared will prepare better next time or try the stealthy way in.

This development has to make sense. Characters who have their trust betrayed over and over again aren’t going to keep blindly trusting everyone they meet. They’ll learn that maybe trust is hard to come by in their circumstance. Characters may learn that they need to think through decisions before acting or learn to keep their tempers in check. But this has to be in line with the events of your plot that are helping to shape them.

Last, It Can be Helpful to Base Characters on Real People.

Now, I’m not saying to put a character that looks, acts, talks, and thinks exactly like your best friend in the book, but it can be helpful to put aspects of real people into your characters. Think about how your best friend talks, and use this to inspire dialogue. Did you ever notice that weird nose-scrunch your sister does when she’s focusing? Perhaps a character has that quirk.

People watching is amazing for this. If you have never done it, you should try it. Go to a public place and just look at people. Walk through Walmart and notice how people interact with others. Notice how some people carry themselves. Are they confident or do they hunch over and try to blend in to the sea of people around them? Just watch and take mental (or physical, if you are so brave) notes. Use these to inspire future characters.

I also find that my favorite characters of mine have little bits of myself in them. One of my characters is how I feel on a daily basis. He’s shy and insecure about his abilities, yet he learns to grow and become confident in himself. Another is based on the kind of person I wish I could be, strong and fiercely independent. Yet she also has the flaws that come with that, and those are flaws that I hope that I, personally, never develop. My sense of humor has gone into many of my characters, and one character has my paralyzing fear of spiders.

Just remember that when you are planning a character and looking for inspiration, sometimes you are the perfect inspiration that you need.

I hope that some of my tips have given you some new ideas about character creation. I would love to hear from you on your characters! What are some of your “character tips” that others could learn from? What is your favorite character that you’ve ever created? Are there any characters you are stuck with and just don’t know how to develop them? Respond in the comments!

Jessica Prieto

Photo by Henry Hustava on Unsplash

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My Must-Have Book

My Must-Have Book

My Personal Copy

I have read a lot of books in my life. Some of my favorites include the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson, Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, and the Wild Magic series by Tamora Pierce. However, none of those have such history with me as Gail Carson Levine’s The Two Princesses of Bamarre.

I received this book in a box shipped to me by my older cousin. The box was full of books that she simply didn’t want anymore. Most of them were uninteresting to me, but then I saw this book. With yellowing pages and a banged-up cover, this copy seems much older than its 2002 print date. I like to say it’s all of the love I’ve given it over the years with my constant rereading.

For those that may not know (and it might be a lot of you, considering that I’ve only ever met one other person who actually knows this book), this book follows the stories of two princesses, Addie and Meryl. Meryl (the blonde on the cover), dreams of going on adventures and slaying dragons. She loves to pull her sister into her swordfighting practice and is braver than many knights. Addie, on the other hand, is shy and afraid, yet she always goes along with her sister.

Addie’s world is then flipped upside down when Meryl falls sick to a plague that is ravaging the kingdom. Aided somewhat by a handsome young mage, Addie must set out by herself on a quest to find a cure for her sister before it’s too late. In the process, she faces dragons, specters, and other creatures, finding her own courage along the way.

This book was one of the first books that inspired my love of the fantasy genre. Reading about the princesses and their struggles, as well as all of the fantasy beasts that Addie encountered, excited me. I found that I loved stories of heroes and magic. Whenever I have a moment of doubt or writer’s block, when I don’t know what in the world I’m doing on the project I’m working on, this is a book that I can read to remember my passion for creating worlds and making people feel the way that this book never fails to make me feel when I read it. It’s a book that I recommend to any fantasy lovers out there or any lovers of a good book.

I would love to hear what books inspired your reading or writing adventures! Leave them in the comments below!

-Jessica Prieto

Heading photo by: Iñaki del Olmo.

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Writing Tips: Avoiding the Clichés of Description

Writing Tips: Avoiding the Clichés of Description

The coffee shop might seem like the perfect place to work on your novel, short story, or poetry, but it does not always lend inspiration for description. Often, consciously or unconsciously, we write regurgitated description in our books that we have already read elsewhere. That causes the same sentence to reappear in many different books. Another common author-fumble is that we try to describe something we have never actually seen. That can lead to cliché descriptions. For example, if you are describing a fire, the first thing that might come to mind to write is, “the fire crackled in the hearth.” Doesn’t the fire crackle in every novel? The word “crackle” is commonly used to describe a fire. Try choosing uncommon words, and do your best to vividly describe the fire, like you are actually observing one. Is it a hot fire that has been blazing for hours? Or is it a small, sputtering fire that was just started? “The short flames hissed and popped, and steam rose from the damp log.” That sentence is far more interesting and image-evoking. Unless all you want to say is “the fire crackled in the hearth.”

If you’ve never experienced a campfire, or a fire in a fireplace, you might end up with a cliché description of it in your written works. Rather than googling another way to describe a fire, experience it for yourself! Nothing will inspire you more, or give you more ideas, than a raw, firsthand experience. Try it with something you’re trying to describe for your written works, whether it’s an event, food, weather, or an animal. Use caution, be safe, and never try anything dangerous or illegal.

Here are some ideas; I have actually tried some of them!

• In a particular instance, I wanted to paint a picture in the reader’s mind of a deep, thick pine forest. So I went to a friend’s property, which used to be a Christmas tree farm, that had thousands of pines. Pine forests are slightly different than a forest of oaks, maples, or box elder trees, and I discovered that in my experience. It is dense, with thick layers of pine needles carpeting the ground, and very, very quiet. Certain kinds of birds favor pine trees, so you may hear specific bird songs echoing among the cedars, white pines, firs, or blue spruces. Knowing those things specifically about a pine forest opens up a variety of ways to write about what it’s like in the pinewoods.

• If you’re describing a person that is enduring something physically taxing, go for a run! Feel your muscles burning and cramping, and how you’re out of breath. Are you sweating just on your forehead, or also on your arms, back, or even stomach?

•Animals are often easy to describe: brown, furry, etc., but what is often not written about in books is the unpredictableness of an animal’s movements. Deer rarely walk a full 100 yards without stopping. They take a few steps, glance around, then trot for another 20 feet, then stop. Deer are very wary of their surroundings. Find a place to observe wild deer in their natural habitat, and write down what you see. Write anything, whether it’s just individual words, or a whole sentence. Keep in mind, animals are elusive and hard to find sometimes, so don’t get discouraged on the first try!

• Something I’ve seen in many books are descriptions of marketplaces or the downtown hubbub of a city. It’s hard not to become cliché in the process of writing about it, so try different angles, perspectives, or subjects, just like a photographer would. A photographer won’t just always stand in the doorway of a store and take a photo of the street. Instead, they might get down on the sidewalk and snap a picture of a pigeon eating pretzel crumbs, with crowds of people milling about in the background.

• Weather is famous for falling into a cliché pose. Not all raindrops are going to “fall” from the sky. Rain might come hurtling down in sheets, or it might be a light mist. Are they cold, sharp, stinging pellets of icy rain? Or is it a warm rain? There are many, many ways to say, “it rained.” And the sun does not always come out after it rains. Go outside for a walk the next time it rains, and don’t be afraid to get wet! Turn your face up so you know what it feels like. Or, if riding a winter-themed work, go out during a snowstorm! Notice if the snowflakes make noise when they fall on the ground.

A challenge for describing weather! When putting together your sentences in your work, don’t name what you are describing. Don’t write the word, “rain”. In other words, describe it, but don’t say it. Write about how the clouds are growing dark, then how droplets of water fall from the sky and hit the pavement, and then comes the downpour. Your reader will know what you are describing, without you ever saying the word, “rain”.

• If you’re describing an event, like a horse race, focus on the feeling. Are the crowds excited, murmuring amongst themselves? Maybe it’s a lazy, hot day, and the crowds are quieter, sitting in the shade and fanning themselves. What does the main character feel at the race? Is he nervous, because he just bet a large sum on a horse? Or is he just relaxing because his uncle is working at the ticket booth?

Whatever you choose to do, always remember that you don’t have to go far to experience something for your project. If you are writing about a northern atmosphere, like Alaska, you may not have the resources to travel there. So get as close as you can, without the travel. Look up photos, watch videos of the tundra, or documentaries. It’s not ideal, but it’s what you have to do sometimes. You want the reader to “feel” the cold, and “hear” the wind. It will improve your book, poetry, or whatever kind of writing you want to do!

By Jasmine Bennett

Photo Credit: Camille Guillen @camilles_lens (Instagram)

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Welcome to Remnant Inklings!

Welcome to Remnant Inklings!

Welcome to Remnant Inklings, a blog and review for books!

Our names are Jessica Prieto and Jasmine Bennett, and we live in the wonderful state of Michigan. Both reading and writing have been passions of ours for years, and so when we were talking about a new adventure to start, this blog came to mind! Why not share our love of books with others?

This blog is going to be a place for all things books! We have a page for book reviews, where we will leave our thoughts and opinions on some books that aren’t as well known or from independent writers. I’ve found that there are a lot of gems out there that have been self-published. Once a month, we will also be choosing an author for our monthly author spotlight. We encourage you to check out the spotlight and support some amazing authors. Our blog will also be a large part of this website. We’ll be posting about anything and everything related to reading and writing!

We are planning on having at least one blog post a week. The book reviews will be as numerous as we can make them, balancing reading with our lives.

We would love to have our readers take part in this blog! Using our contact page, you can send us emails with questions that you want answered in a blog, books we should read and review, or authors that you feel deserve a place in the spotlight! Any other questions, comments, or concerns are also welcome!

Thank you for coming to our blog, and we hope that it’s one that you find some enjoyment and inspiration in

Jessica P.

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