Writing Believable Characters

Hey, writers! Welcome back to the first Teen Writers’ prompt of 2021! The new year brings new challenges. It’s a good time to ask how you want to grow as a writer. What goals do you have for your writing? Which subjects do you want to write about? What challenges do you want your characters to overcome?

Lately, I’ve been trying to write more authentically. When I work in personal experiences, my writing feels more special and unique to me. To kick the year off, let’s discuss how we can write more honestly. How can we use our personal experiences in fiction? It might sound confusing at first, but we already often do it without thinking! By doing this, we give our readers a reason to relate to our characters.

Example

Let’s say the main character in your story goes through a breakup and has their heart broken. Throughout the story, maybe the character does a wide variety of things that you’ve never done. But if you’ve gone through a breakup and write the character to experience the same feelings you felt, other people who have also gone through a similar pain can understand that and connect more deeply with your character. Then, even if the rest of the story is completely made up, your readers have already connected with that character and will follow them along for the ride.

Think about your own favorite stories and characters, and what drew you so closely to them. Why did you relate to them so much? Chances are the writer used some of their experiences in those stories too!

Prompt

Now let’s try this ourselves! Since you’re just coming back from winter break, write about an experience you had over the holidays and how it made you feel. This can be anything you want but be sure to take some time and really write it out. Think of it as a journal entry of sorts. Once you have that experience written down, try writing about it from the perspective of a character and throw in some made-up details. But keep your main feelings the same. Use your experience to inform the character’s experience. If winter break was kind of boring and you’re not sure what to write about, feel free to pick a different memory to explore instead!

If you want to share what you’ve written or would like some feedback on your work, please submit your stories to teenwriters@tscpl.org. Happy writing!

Kody is a Youth Librarian who primarily works with teens. He is also a writer and photographer, and drank several cups of coffee while writing this post.