It seems like an extremely daunting task to create convincing characters. However, creating convincing characters is essential to a powerful fiction, of any type. Satisfactory characters can be created through establishing convincing motives and a clear personality. These traits are as rewarding as they are difficult. Books and movies that create authentic characters entangle the mind in a fascinating way.
The initial step to establishing authentic characters, especially main characters, is to create plausible motives. There must be a central motive that drives every one of a story’s characters. This motive must be set up effectively or else it will not be psychologically convincing. In order to set up a characters motives, an author must dive into the human thought process, not forcing the character to reason like themselves, but instead pressing themselves to reason as their character would. These motives must be understandable to the common man, and also unique from the common man. I have never read a popular novel or watched a popular movie where I could not bring myself to understand why a character thought something. In order to create an understanding of the characters motives, an author must make all of his actions spring out of an understandable, not necessarily sensible, thought process.
Until a clear personality is created in the characters of a story, it is unable to flare to life. It is truly fascinating when an author creates characters that the reader literally feels like they know. To really understand how this works, It is essential to read classic novels that do this really well. It is difficult to explain exactly how a clear personality is created in a character, but there are a few results that will come from these great characters. First, a characters actions will always spring as directly from who they are. Second, a character with an established personality will leave the reader either wishing they were like that person, or wishing they will never become like that person. Most importantly, the readers should always hope that something bad happens to the character, or that it all turns out good for the character. To me it is even more impressive when an author creates a truly despicable character, or a character that the reader knows is despicable, but they are still able to love that character. One of the best examples of a despicable character, driven by his cowardly personality is saving private Ryan’s corporal Timothy E. Upham, played by Jeremy Davies. This was a soldier who refused to shoot any of the opposing side, and ran from all war in the midst of the battle. There is a moment where he is cowering on the stairs and a German soldier slips up the stairs right past him because of his insignificance. The awesome sniper at the top of the stairs is brutally killed because Upham refuses to fight, and by the end of the movie every one hopes this coward will just die already. An amazing example of a lovable character that readers are able to feel like they truly suffer with when he is persecuted, is Winston from 1984. The best example of a lovable but despicable character, from any book I have read is the murderous Rodion Romanovich Rakolnikov, from Crime and Punishment.
In essence, it is essential to create characters that have convincing motives and unique personalities. There is no precise formula to creating these characters, yet the characterization is what separates an okay story from a great story. It is important to always remember as a fiction author that the main goal is to get the reader engaged and send a specific message to the reader. There is no better way to do this than through the actions of characters, and the the thought process defining those actions.