Making A Realistic Character
I’ve received several comments about my character Kita and how real she is. I thought I would share my process. Over 20+ novels and I’ve developed several writing techniques on how to make Kita accessible and believable. Having a believable character requires more than technique, but planning.
When I set out to write BykeChic, I sketched out Kita’s backstory and environment. This is important as it’s the lens Kita sees the world through. I identify several key traits that define her, and I believe work well together. These traits form the core of Kita’s personality in the beginning.
In BykeChic, I’m trying to cut down on Kita’s god-like abilities. At the beginning of BykeChic Kita is a normal human. Getting her to be realistic this time around is different than in Birthright. Birthright was an excersise in getting the reader to like someone they would have little to relate to and performs anti-social behavior which the reader wouldn’t agree with. In Bykechic, Kita’s environment is different. She has the same DNA, but has a more supportive and loving childhood–her mother dies young and is raised by a single father who cares for her very much. When her father dies, she does lose her sole support structure and is left on her own for three years. At the beginning of BykeChic Kita is an insecure loner survivalist loyal to her dad. Kita’s willing to do what is necessary to stay alive–running the yard after her dad died and hide her sexuality in a town that would shun her.
The story follows Kita’s progression as she becomes more confident and willing to stand up for herself with the help of an alien she meets. Kita is forced to come to terms with the death of her dad and how to remain loyal to him. In the beginning, returning from college to run her father’s salvage yard was her way of dealing with the grief, but became a trap leaving her without a way to move beyond her grief.
Kita lives in a small town on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Even though she lives in a liberal state Reading, Cali is highly conservative. Kita believes her business suffers because a girl is doing a man’s job. She, because of the violence and discrimination seen around the country, fears that announcing her sexuality to the town will damage her business further and put her in danger. This leaves her isolated, but not paralyzed. She dreams of a girlfriend. She was supposed to attend college in Angel City where she hoped to find acceptance and friends.
Early in BykeChic when Kita meets the alien, it takes an emotional life or death argument to get Kita to leave what she knows and accompany the alien to Angel City. In the timeline of the book, Kita moves fairly quickly from isolation to accepting, but she relies heavily on the emotional support of the alien and the progression seems natural from the alien to Ryan and a third character. Typically, this is a process that can take a long time, depending on the severity. Kita isn’t a severe case, she’s young and resilient. But, she can’t shake it entirely. It influences her decisions and actions throughout the story.
To make Kita feel relatable and realistic, I spend time writing about her decision-making processes when she makes major decisions. The reader gets to see how she thinks and can relate to these introspective moments. How Kita gets to the decision is as important as making it and showing the consequences. Showing the logical progression of Kita’s choices helps connect the reader, even if it’s the wrong decision, but they understand how she got there. This process is more evident in BykeChic that Birthright.
With Kita, I stay away from tropes. It means more writing and delving deeper into her psyche, but I believe the character appears fresher and more realistic. I don’t want the reader to assume anything about her. This allows for surprises and hypocrisy, which all humans have and most writers consider bad for character development because their characters aren’t consistent. Hypocrisy is not an excuse for random or inconsistent behavior. There has to be a reason for it. I try hard to explain Kita’s thought process behind the reasoning for her inconsistencies. It’s not the inconsistencies that make her real, but the reasoning behind them.
If you read BykeChic, one thing that Kita does that I don’t see in many books is she talks to herself, especially early on. Sometimes these are just random comments on the situation or questions about what’s going on. These simple phrases introduce the reader into Kita’s mind. Everyone has an internal monologue and introducing the reader to Kita’s helps the reader connect with the character. This is also a valuable way of being able to show Kita’s emotions. Like a lot of people, she doesn’t always express what she feels, but this allows the reader to experience what she does.
The world around Kita influences her behavior and the more real the world, the more real the character. I’ll save the worldbuilding of BykeChic for another post, but the world is important and so is how Kita interacts with it. What Kita knows how to do and what she doesn’t give the reader a sense of her past and her interests. Telling what Kita thinks of her world is a way to influence what I want the reader to feel about it. Kita’s likes and dislikes are another reveal into her personality and help readers connect with her.
I hope this was helpful and helps you make your characters better.