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How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 6: Acting

Hi everyone, and welcome to the final part of “How to Make Your Characters Real”!

In this part, I’m going to be talking about how you decide the way in which characters act, focusing in some simple techniques to ensure that your character acts in a realistic and consistent manner. 

Let’s assume you have your character and have established their appearance, the hidden information that they have the various other bits and pieces that we’ve been talking about throughout these articles.

You want to put them in a situation you have devised and you’ll therefore be thinking about how would they act. Sometimes, this might be difficult – you may end up not being sure because they have all of this hidden information that other people might not understand. They may even act in a way that doesn’t seem entirely rational.

When you hit a wall, if you cannot extrapolate from what you already have, try thinking about what you would do in that situation. How would you respond to the various factors in play.

Once you have decided that, consider how they are different from you… and therefore, what would they do differently in that situation – would they act in the same way, because the things that differ between you and them are insignificant in this regard? 

Or even would they act in the same way, but for a different motivational reason? Perhaps because they would have personal gain, rather than because that’s the right thing to do. 

After that, if you want to create a chain, which helps the story pretty much right itself, you want to think about how people are going to react to the way that they have acted. So if they are not completely in isolation, or even if they leave a trail – a message behind that someone else can pick up – there’s going to be some level of reaction to what is going on.

Then, you need to consider how people around react to this approach. How people react to actions that they observe is an important part of building this chain of events. Some people will overreact, some people will feel that it was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do for various reasons… and the balance of the crowd may not be in the direction that you initially assume.

Think carefully about what I wrote previously about what the average person is like and how your character stands out from them. Will the average person indeed react positively just because your main character has done something? 

Next, depending on the initial action and the reaction, there’s likely to be some level of outcome. This is often something that will prompt another action by the main character. 

If you can work out what the action is, what the reaction is, and then what the outcome is, you can often build an entire event chain off the back of that. This gives you the opportunity to continue your piece of work at pace – you will move forward through your story very easily, in a character-driven way, because a story is inherently a chain of events. 

That’s all I’ve got for this article, but I’d like to thank you very much for reading this sequence, and I hope that you found it helpful. 

I’m going to be moving on to some different topics next week, but I am still more than happy to answer any questions that people have. So please message me or let me know if you’d like me to follow up on any aspect of this in the future.

– Ed

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