7 Tricks For More Relatable Characters

I may earn commission on any links in this post.
See Disclaimers for more details.

Hi there! I hope you’re safe & well. The fall ick has been going around lately. Hopefully you’ve been taking care of yourself and staying healthy so you can enjoy this season!

I have had one common piece of feedback on my writing: readers have trouble connecting with my characters.

This is something I’ve been working to improve because, as we all know, the characters can make or break a story!

Would you rather read a good story with a bad MC, or a not-so-good story with a great MC?

For me, it’s all about the character.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an exciting plot. But if I can’t get into the character’s head from the start, I’m bored for the rest of the book.

The problem with this is that there’s often a small window of time where if I don’t connect with the character, I never will. I have to be drawn in within the first few chapters, otherwise the character is lost on me.

So today I thought I’d share some tricks I’ve learned about creating more relatable characters.

1: Give the character something to care about-QUICKLY!

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

Giving your character something to love is such an important part of adding depth to a character.

This doesn’t always have to be a love interest!

In fact, I recommend you give them something to care about that is totally platonic, or even something private they don’t share with many people.

This can be a pet, a sweater their grandma knit them, a necklace from their dad, a rock they found as a child, anything!

Make it personal, give it a story!

This is part of developing your character’s backstory-creating little scenes from their past that you can incorporate into the story in one way or another.

This adds depth to your character and a level of relatability for your reader!

They can have moments like “Oh, my grandma knit me a scarf I still have!” or “I have a dried flower from that nature walk I took with my dad, I get why she kept that rock!”

It’s the little things that make a big impact on a reader.

Everyone has things they love. That’s just human nature.

Giving your character something to love makes them more believable, and if your reader can relate to it with a similar scenario, all the better!

If you can’t think of anything for your character, think of things you care about, or things people you know care about.

Sometimes taking some inspiration from real life can be even better than making it up, because it’s real.

It’s so much more believable because you believe it.

If you write with complete understanding about a topic, even if you don’t mention every single fact, that knowledge will shine through and give your reader a sense of surety.

2: Give the character unique traits.

Photo by Godisable Jacob on Pexels.com

Every single person has their own set of unique traits and quirks-so it stands to reason that your characters will too!

More than believability, adding a quirk will give your reader a peek into your character’s inner world.

They will gain an understanding of what makes them tick, how they behave, why they are the way they are.

More than that, it will make your character stand out amongst their peers.

If you think about your friends or family, who stands out to you the most? What makes them unique? What’s your favorite thing about them?

Often it’s people’s quirks that make us love them the most.

I have this cousin. I know I’m not supposed to pick favorites, but he is definitely my favorite! He is covered in piercings and tattoos and is in a heavy metal band. But he’s also the kindest, gentlest soul I think I’ve ever met.

I love his unique qualities, they serve to make him stand out to me.

Give your character some quirks.

Make them scared of butterflies.

Make them love cinammon rolls so much they shed tears every single time.

Make them have a weird laugh.

Make them only wear purple.

Just make them unique!

Give them (believable) traits that make your reader say, “Oh this person’s interesting. Now I want to know more.”

3: Make their best trait be their biggest downfall.

Photo by Alin Luna on Pexels.com

Sometimes our biggest and best qualities can also be out greatest weaknesses.

Bravery is great, especially in a butt-kicking MC… but what happens when their bravery becomes reckless self-sacrifice?

Pride can be a good thing, but what happens when it gives your character a big head?

Being a sweet cinnamon roll can be a lovely quality, but what does it feel like to be the person who never says no, who always has to be nice?

There are so many weaknesses you can give your character, but make sure they fit the personality!

Think about someone in your life. What is their best trait? Their worst?

Can you see how these two things relate to each other?

Don’t be afraid to look into some behavior psychology.

People are fascinating. Life experience, family of origin, and present circumstances can all influence personality.

Make sure that your character makes sense, but then dive deeper into why they are the way they are and how you can make them more interesting.

4: Give your character goals.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Everyone has a goal.

Most people have several!

Someone might have life goals, but also little goals every year, month, or even day.

Make your character want something. Make them desperate for it.

Wanting something is so relatable for your readers. So if you give your character a goal, your reader will connect with that.

Giving your character smaller goals will also be relatable for your readers.

Even if their goal is just to find something to eat.

Who hasn’t been hungry before? Everyone can relate to that!

Another thing to keep in mind here is that every character should have goals, not just your MC.

Your MC’s Big Goal will often line up with the plot, but you have to keep in mind that not all supporting characters will have that same goal.

Maybe your MC wants to save the world, but one of your supporting characters is just in it for the recognition.

Maybe your MC wants to slay the dragon, but your love interest just wants to win the MC’s heart.

Take a good look at each character’s personality and ask yourself why they are on this path.

Your supporting character is the MC of their own story, so what is that story?

5: Give your character redeeming qualities.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Redeeming qualities are vital to creating a relatable character.

Part of relatability is likeability. No, not every person on the planet is likeable, but you will have a tough time selling a book if all your characters chafe against the reader.

Your reader needs to be able to like your MC.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “But MK, I’m writing a different story. I don’t want my MC to be nice.”

Did I say nice? Nope!

The reader just has to be capable of liking them.

Not every person on the planet is kind, not even all the people you care about in your life. But I guarantee you that if you care about them, they have some redeeming qualities.

Maybe they’re tough but they love hard.

Maybe they have explosive anger, but are also fiercely protective of their loved ones.

Whatever you pick, make sure there is something about your characters that your readers can actually like.

Unless, of course, you enjoy low book sales and being ripped to shreds on Goodreads.

6: Put relatable obstacles in their path

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

If you’re plotting correctly, there will be several obstacles in your MC’s path.

But part of making them relatable is showing “relatable reactions” to unrelatable situations… and giving your character some normal obstacles!

Put yourself in your character’s shoes: how would you react if you were them?

Make sure that whatever reaction they are having, it lines up with their personality and is believable for your reader.

But more than that, give your characters some NORMAL obstacles!

Does your MC need to save the world, but all the odds are stacked against them? That’s not super relatable for your reader…

So maybe also add that they get nervous in crowds or they’re afraid of spiders. Something totally normal so your reader understands it.

Maybe your character wants to ask someone out, but they’re scared.

Maybe your character is fighting with their sibling.

Maybe your character just lost a family member.

Take something away. Give them a fear. Put something totally mundane in their way that still ends up being a pain in the butt.

All these obstacles are relatable to your real-world readers and can add a sense of depth and believability to your character and your story.

7: Show growth

Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

Growth is vital to your story.

Characters need to show internal struggle just as much as external.

If you’re looking for some examples to take note of, YA does this so well!

You always start out with a character who changes dramatically over the course of the story.

This should happen over time, in believable increments.

Growth takes time in the real world, it should take time in your story too!

Your character should struggle against it at first. Nobody likes change. But after some growing pains, they should be better for it.

It should happen over the course of the book, with greater growth over the course of a series if that’s where your story is headed.

Maybe you’re asking, “But what if my MC ends up worse off than they started?”

Yes… there are exceptions. Something to remember about writing rules is that they’re really more like guidelines.

If you are following a different story structure and you want to show some kind of regression, go for it! It’s your story.

Will you get sales? I don’t know… Ask me in 10 years. Or just do it and find out!

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

I hope this guide was helpful for my fellow writers out there!

As always, feel free to leave comments below if you think of anything that might make characters more relatable.

Sending love,

MK

This is Linux and his cousin Evie. They are the best of friends. When he’s working on character believability, he likes to think about her. Not to help his writing, mostly because that’s all he really thinks about when she’s around.

How To Show Not Tell Like A Pro

I may earn commission on any links in this post.
See Disclaimers for more details.

Hi there, I hope you’re having a great week! Have you been doing lots of cozy fall things? I love this season. The leaves. The crisp breeze. The cozy sweaters and evenings snuggled up in a blanket. Whatever you’re doing, I hope you’re taking care of you ❤

I thought I’d cover showing vs. telling when it comes to writing.

I touched on this briefly in my post on 5 Common Mistakes New Writers Make, but I think it could use some further explanation.

You hear it everywhere: Show, don’t tell!

But what does that really mean?

Basically, it’s a way of expanding your writing and immersing your reader in the story.

Evoking emotions in your reader and giving them the tools to dive into your story.

Sounds great, right?

But it can be tricky.

I mean, you can’t show all the time.

Your book would be way too long and overflowing with flowery sentences that would lose their luster pretty quickly.

It’s like bumper stickers. A few carry meaning. But having your entire car decked out in bumper stickers will probably just make people turn away, not even bother to read one.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

It’s all about balance. You have to show enough to immerse your reader, but not so much that they get tired of reading the long, drawn-out paragraphs.

This balance will be different for every writer, and for every story. Something I have found is that it’s always better to show more.

Show as much as you can, then trim things down in the edits.

Do you need to say “Her eyelids grew heavy, her shoulders slumping as sleep beckoned her further from reality” every time, or can you just say “she was exhausted.”

Great question!

The answer is: Only you can know that.

I know, I know.

“MK, that’s not what I wanted to hear.”

But that’s the reality!

Only you can know what’s right for your story.

So show everything! Show in every paragraph, every line. Show until your fingers ache from typing, then go back and trim the fat.

Maybe you’ll go back and realize you already said that she was tired, so it’s good that you’re showing its affect now.

Maybe you’ll go back and realize this scene is already pretty fluffy, so you can just say “she was exhausted” and call it a day.

In the end, you should probably have a 70:30 ratio of showing vs telling.

Show me the little things that make me feel this world.

Tell me the big stuff.

Show me your character’s reaction when she sees a child’s doll crushed into the dirt in a war-torn countryside.

Show me how it feels when your character’s anxiety kicks in, and for the love of God, do some research if you don’t know what it feels like.

Show me how butterflies took flight in your character’s stomach when he had his first kiss.

Show me how it felt for your character to stand across from their partner on their wedding day.

Tell me the sky was blue.

Tell me the character walked across the bar and took a seat next to a cute boy.

Tell me your character is hungry.

Tell me what I need to know.

Show me what I need to feel.

Photo by Edward Eyer on Pexels.com

If you were describing the scene above, what would you tell me, and what would you show me?

You might tell me how deep the water was, but show me how it felt to be immersed in it. You might tell me she smiled when he kissed her, but you might show me what it felt like to kiss a mouth that tasted like saltwater and laughter. You might tell me the sun beat down on them, but you might show me how it felt to have your head grow warm while your toes buried in the frigid sand below.

You’re telling a story. That involves facts that need to be stated.

But this is art, at the end of the day.

Make me feel something.

Now if you’re wondering: “How do I show my readers?”

I’ve got you covered.

All you need to do is focus on the 5 senses: eyesight, hearing, taste, touch and smell.

Let’s give it a try with your actual story.

Think of a scene from your WIP that could use some flowers and fluff.

Got it?

Great.

Now close your eyes.

You are the character.

Their personality is yours.

Their habits and mannerisms are yours.

Their experience is your own.

Become your character in this scene.

What are you seeing?

What are you hearing?

What are you tasting?

What are you touching?

What are you smelling?

If you were this character, what would be the first thing you say, the first thing you do?

What, in this scene, would be the most important to you? The least?

What would you pay attention to? What would you ignore?

One character might be more interested in the art on the walls, while another character might be more interested in the people.

A good way to connect with your character is to imagine them at a dinner party. The waiter spills water on them. How do they react?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Everyone will react differently in this situation. Some would jump away. Some would get angry. Some would get embarrassed. Some would apologize to the waiter. Some would shout at them.

Knowing how your character would react in a situation like this adds believability, and helps to shift your perspective to know how they would react in other situations.

Your character is a sweet little cinnamon roll. No combat training. No muscles to speak of. Afraid of their own shadow.

If someone tries to punch them, they’re probably not going to block it. They might duck, but not in a super-cool matrix-ish way. More in a scream-and-cower way. Odds are, if someone tries to punch them, they’re going to get punched! They just don’t have the reflexes required to dodge or block an attack.

How they feel about it is another story. Cinnamon roll might be scared. Or they might be embarrassed.

When I get scared, my instant reaction is to get angry. Call it a defense mechanism. Call it a problem. Whatever. It’s just how I am. If someone tries to punch me, and especially if it hurts, I’m going to cover up any fear or embarrassment I feel with anger. It will be gut instinct. My very first visible reaction.

But if I’m writing a super tough character that doesn’t have this reaction, I have to set that aside while I’m writing the scene.

It’s a lot like acting, just for anti-social weirdos such as myself.

So get into character!

Imagine how your character would feel, react, act, and write it down!

Show your reader how to feel.

If you ever feel like a scene is missing something, go back and count how many senses you used. You need to use every single sense to give your reader a fully immersive experience.

The most common one is sight. Writers are always telling me what a character is seeing, but I have a pretty active imagination. I don’t need to know what they’re seeing, I need to know what they’re hearing. Smelling. Tasting. Feeling.

You don’t have to tell me your character walked into a bakery with purple walls and a case full of breads and black and white tiled floors and a cute baker boy in the back.

If you tell me your character walked into a bakery and the smell of baking bread filled their nose, cute baker boy in the back kneading dough, I’ll fill in the rest.

Your reader is smart. And sometimes, it’s best to hint at your world and let your reader use their imagination. This adds believability, and gives the reader a better experience.

I hope this was helpful to my fellow writers out there!

If you have any more tips on Showing vs. Telling, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

As always, take care of yourself. It’s a tough world out there.

Sending love,

MK

This is my boi, assisting my mom as she tries to work. He’s telling her she needs to show more and tell less, all while making his signature derp face.

Can I Call Myself A Writer?

I may earn commission on any links in this post.
See Disclaimers for more details.

Hi there, I hope this post finds you safe and well. The world can be a scary place, but hopefully you have found something that brings you joy.

Joy, for me, is in being creative. Baking. Painting. Writing. I love to create, to use my hands and my mind to make something beautiful. I love to imagine worlds and explore them, to talk to my characters and get to know who they are, to find the beauty in the monotony. Writing can be stressful at times, but I love it. Even the challenges it brings.

Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.com

I used to call myself an “aspiring writer” or a “newbie writer”. Adjectives that make it clear that, while I do write, I’m new to this. I don’t have a lot of experience, especially from a professional standpoint. I am unpublished. I have no agent, despite valiant efforts. I have written one book that has yet to go past the eyes of my immediate family. I’m drafting a new one, and it’s a lot harder than I was expecting.

I have all these reasons to call myself an “amateur”. I worried that if I called myself a writer, I might be misleading people into thinking I actually know what I’m doing. Or worse, if I say I’m a writer, people will expect me to actually, you know, write.

According to the dictionary, a writer is someone who engages in writing, especially as a profession.

Is that what I do?

It’s certainly what I’d like to do. But as of this moment, I’ve never gotten any money from it. I can’t exactly be paid in warm, fuzzy feelings and my family’s praise.

Though I’m always open to receiving.

So I asked myself, why can’t I call myself a writer? If you google it, all these sites will pop up telling you when you can and when you can’t, people getting angry at newbies calling themselves writers, people getting angry at old pros who still haven’t adopted the title.

I suppose everyone’s just angry. That’s nothing new.

And why would I base my opinions off someone else anyway?

So I call myself a writer. Let me explain why I do this.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

First of all, if you write, you are a writer. I don’t care if you haven’t made a penny. If you put words on the page, and you’re heading in some direction with those words, you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t gotten an agent yet. Or if you’re unpublished. Or if you’re self-published. Or if you’re published and have established a career. If you use language to create stories, you are a writer. So stop listening to everything Reddit tells you.

To be a writer, you must write. That’s it.

Second, I’ve found that these “qualifying” adjectives were a way for me to degrade myself.

Yes, I write, but I’m new to this. Yes, I wrote a book, but it’s unpublished. Yes, I’d like to write for money, but I’m not making any yet.

Amateur.

Newbie.

Hobbyist.

Aspiring.

Unpublished.

Wannabe.

Inexperienced.

Not yet worth the industry’s time.

These can get negative really quickly. And if you are painting yourself with these adjectives, you will probably start to believe them. You will feel insufficient. Worthless. See my post on Self-Doubt if this sounds like the inside of your head. It was mine for a long time, so I get it.

I ask you, is someone who paints, but has never sold a piece, a painter? Is someone who builds things, but doesn’t own a construction company, a builder? Is someone who tends plants, but doesn’t sell them, a gardener?

Do you have to be established, making money, and publicly accepted by the industry to be an artist?

When a child uses adjectives to downgrade their identity, their worth, what do you say? You tell them how great they are, right?

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

When your child draws you a picture, but tells you it’s not very good, you tell them you love it! You say, “This is beautiful! You’re an artist! I’m so proud of you!”

So why do you treat yourself any different? Why are you, a wonderful, creative, worthwhile individual, not allowed to be proud of who you are and what you do?

I realized that the only person who actually took issue with me calling myself a writer, was me. I was afraid that people wouldn’t take me seriously. That people might think I had a big head.

But why would they think that?

I am a writer. I have written stories, and will continue to do so. Money, or not. Though money would be nice… My mortgage company doesn’t accept the aforementioned fuzzy feelings.

I’m so tired of making myself small for the comfort of others. I’m so tired of using degrading adjectives in case anyone took issue.

So, I’m a writer. A good one, in my opinion.

Isn’t that the only opinion that really matters? Your own?

Be kind to yourself, and call yourself whatever feels right to you.

And above all, keep creating. The world needs more good, and you are part of that.

Sending love,

MK

Linux calls himself a magician because he’s got that floofy magic.

Re-Discovering A Passion

I may earn commission on any links in this post.
See Disclaimers for more details.

Hi there, I hope you’re safe & well!

I’ve been writing here and there for as long as I can remember, but only taking it seriously in the last couple years. It started out the usual way. Pieces of paper thoroughly scribbled upon, plots mashed together from the inner-workings of a young mind, pages pressed together with staples or tape or glue.

Then I got my hands on a computer, and all bets were off. I pecked like a chicken until that gave way to furious fingers dancing across the keyboard, almost as if my fingertips were the ones telling the story and I was merely a bystander. I knit stories together, wove personalities and desires, painted a world with my mind. I showed my work to a friend. She didn’t appreciate the mastery of my twelve year old imagination.

Then I stopped.

Sure, I wrote emails and school papers. I texted and posted my woes on social media like all good teenagers do. I grew up and my creativity was pushed to the back of my mind. Something less important than the tasks of impending adulthood piling before me.

I went to college. I got married. I looked up and seven years had passed me by. Ten. Another amount of time that shall go unnamed. When did I lose myself?

To be fair, I had never been taught to put myself first. Being raised the way I was raised will do that to you. I know that’s vague, but bear with me. When you’re raised in survival mode, you have no idea what it means to truly LIVE.

Learning how to live–how to thrive–has been quite a journey for me. A long one. And part of that was re-discovering this love of written word. I remembered what it felt like to dive into a book, to get wrapped up in another world. I felt this pull to write.

I procrastinated. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I was bad? What if no one liked it? What if I never sold any copies?

What if I was a success?

I’m still learning. Not just about the writing process, but about life as a whole. But if I can share one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: who cares what anyone else thinks?

Sending love,

MK

Linux says you’re doing a great job.