How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 5: Hidden Information

Hi everyone, Ed here, and I’m back with another “How to Make Your Characters Real!”

Today, I’m going to be talking about how characters won’t always share all of the information that they have about themselves from the very beginning.

They might have very detailed reasons for being the way they are, but most people won’t share them for no reason. You have to be in a situation where they’re willing to open up about certain facts about themselves. From a writing standpoint, it also has to be relevant to what they need to tell other characters in the story: it has to be emotionally motivated.

Equally, when a character acts, they won’t always explain why it is that they’re doing what they’re doing. That’s really important, because if you say wy  every single time and you make every character’s motivation totally clear, it will make for an unconvincing story and an unconvincing character. Be careful what you explain about why they do what they do – although as I said in a previous part, make sure that you know what their reasoning is!

Equally, characters might come in looking like they have one type of approach, then have ulterior motives that they don’t explain. Sometimes, it is possible to leave tiny little clues that then make that betrayal, that eventually occurs, feel right, even if it’s not obvious from the start.

I’ve talked a lot about building a detailed backstory in the past. I just wanted to quickly cover the risk that a lot of people panic about in my experience – that of building a detailed character which never gets explored properly.

I don’t see this as a massive problem, and I have some reasons behind this. Primarily, you are able to explore these things later: maybe this character deserves their own story? Maybe there are aspects of this character that never come to light, but you really like them… so you can potentially reveal them through another character. A similar but different character can be built on the basis that you’ve worked on (using some of the tips I’ve spoken about earlier in this series).

I was talking at the beginning about consuming media, and then combining aspects. This extends to your own work as well – feel free to combine aspects of your own characters that maybe you never got to use, add things that motivated them, but you never actually managed to portray.

This is the second to last part of my “How to Make Characters Real” set of articles. If there are more topics you’d like me to cover then, please, go ahead and leave a comment – I will be more than happy to cover those!

Next week, I’ll be back with the final part, which is focusing on advice for deciding how a character will act in any given situation.

Thank you very much for reading.

– Ed

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