Caitlin Asks . . . How do you make your characters so life like?
1. The first step to creating believable characters is to forget that you're writing a book. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true! At least it works for me. If you forget that you're writing a story, then your characters aren't there to make the story exciting or dramatic--they aren't working for your story. You're probably thinking . . . what does that mean?! Well, without a story to tell, they can't do things that are good for the "story" but aren't necessarily realistic. Of course, at some point, you need to remember you're writing a story! But, this trick works for me in many different scenes because I ask myself if the character would do or say what I want him/her to do or say even if there were no story to move forward. If the answer is yes, I know that the behavior or dialogue is realistic. If the answer is no, I need to rethink a few things.
2. The second step to creating realistic characters is to know as much about their past and character motivation as possible. Some authors know their characters' birthdays and favorite colors, and that information is great, but for me, the really important stuff is where they come from, what their family life is like, and what emotional issues they are struggling with. Emotions are the #1 driving force behind a character's actions, so once you know each character's motivation, you'll see the world and the story through those character's eyes in a completely different way--just like in real life! Everything that happens to us in life has an effect on how we act and think. It's the same way with characters in a story. If a character has suffered from a lost friendship, a bad rejection, a tenuous home life, all of those things factor into how he/she views and interacts with the world.
3. The third step I ALWAYS follow when writing dialogue is read everything out loud like a thousand times. If the dialogue doesn't roll easily off my tongue, and if I can't picture a person standing in front of me saying those exact words, I need to make some adjustments.
Those are my three main tips for creating believable characters and dialogue. I hope it helps you with your own characters!