Making the impossible possible

Many of the books I've read over the years, in fact the ones I've enjoyed the most, have been fantastical. They have been peopled by cyborgs fighting for their freedom, time travellers and fairy folk. Their characters have journeyed between dimensions, fought monsters and defeated aliens. Some have been fantasy stories and others have been science fiction (my preferred genres). On occasion, I've dipped into horror novels and quirky contemporary fiction. What all of these stories have done well is to create worlds where the fantastical elements do not detract from convincing me that these characters are authentic, feeling, living beings.

In the novel I'm writing, magical powers are an accepted part of society and yet Steve Haven still finds himself shocked by what he finds - a man who can travel miles by using a door, any door, to transport himself to a separate building, a woman with magical healing powers and children who can create light orbs. What earns his acceptance is the people behind this magic, the courageous shopkeeper, the protective mother and the loving daughter.

There's a lot of advice out there about how characters should be created. Some writers create a grid of set questions to answer about each character. Others find photos. Some just launch in and see how their characters develop. There's no right answer here. Trial and error will show you how to people your stories.

A reader will believe anything is possible if the characters in your stories are fully-fleshed out, genuine people (even if those people are green, tentacle-clad aliens). Their backgrounds, their attitudes, their slants on life will decide how your characters react. Will they fight or flee? Will they protect the small guy or join the bullies? Get to know your characters so well that you can reel off their life history in your head and they will develop a depth that your reader will love.

"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Albus Dumbledore


  1. Yes, characters are very important when the writer wants to make his/her audience believe it's all real. What also matters is getting your facts right, all those tiny details which are true both in our world and the one of the book. I've recently read a fantasy book in which snakes reacted to music. Not some fantasy snakes, but the same snakes we know from our own world - and snakes happen to be deaf. It makes it difficult to get into te book when you run into something like that.

  2. I love that Dumbledore line. It really hits home for writers. ;)

  3. Personally I use a rather complex character sheet to develop my characters and is available on my site. The more real they are to you the more likely they are believeable to the reader. It's all the more important in fiction. I'll put in pictures of characters, the houses they live in (even build them with Sims), midis of favorite music, cars they drive, favorite book passages, etc.


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