Building Realism Through Characters

by Leslie Esdaile Banks

From the web site fictionfactor

The basis of any genre of writing is creating a world that is credible to the reader.

This aspect of developing an entertaining “ride for the reader’s money” is critical to success. Thus, with that main paradigm at the forefront of all creative endeavors, a writer can easily slide between genres as distinct as romance, to women’s fiction, to even horror. I know – I’ve done it in 14 novels.

Now one might rightfully ask, how in the heck does a “romance writer,’ go from the world of wine and roses to “the dark side,” with ease and grace? How can a “horror writer” make such villainous characters – like vampires – seem so endearing?

Again, the answer is simple: develop your characters based upon realistic human emotions and reactions to stimuli in your novel plot.

Within every good book, what makes for reality-suspended reading is ironically reality. If your characters are credible, the way they see the world is identifiable as true to life, because you can empathize with their thoughts and feelings.

Any situation you hurl your characters into has rules that you, the writer and creator of your fictional world, should not violate. By finding the thoughts and actions that are true to your characters’ personalities and sticking to them, you will create a captivating book.

Emotions are the centerpiece. From there, the action fans out in a ripple effect that embraces (or traps) your characters. The moment your characters behave in a way that is less than believable, then your reader is jerked back from their escape, away from the world you’ve created within your book, and they are halted by one thought: “Huh? Naaaaah…. Get out of here-nobody would do that.”

And, the moment that thought occurs within the reader’s head, you’ve lost them.

The reader then becomes a “flaw detective,” looking for other violated laws of reality within the novel until they are no longer held to the plot. Conversely, if they believe the emotions and bond to the characters, then whatever world you thrust them into, they’re with the story for the duration.

A lot of focus is often put on solid plotting and action, and in truth, there is no substitute for that. However, it is not the primary force within the story. It all begins with people, as your readers are people, and that’s what the readers bond to-first.

© Copyright 2003 Leslie Esdaile Banks. All rights reserved

Leslie Esdaile Banks is a full-time author with over 14 novels and 4 novellas, writing for Genesis Press, Inc., BET/Arabesque, Simon and Schuster/Pocketbooks, and St. Martin’s Press, Inc.

You can visit Leslie at, or you can learn more about Leslie’s books at


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