Characterization and the art of making it

As fiction writers, we are often called to the mysterious ways of characterization. No matter how much we try to justify that our characters are purely original and came out of nowhere, or based off of someone else, the characters we write will always be a reflection of ourselves. (Or how we perceive others to be.) That is our honesty; that is our truth.

But one thing that can be especially difficult for writers is the character realism in the world we create. Consistency and connectability can turn a weak plot into a masterpiece. Really, the story you want to tell won’t remotely take form without the life that drives it, be it fictional life.

So what makes a realistic character? Well, that’s a complex issue, for what a real character is in one story is absolutely ridiculous in another. (Think Albus Dumbledore in The Color Purple. Not especially fitting.)

Firstly, you must come up with your genre. This is the major thing, above all else, that defines the world your characters live in, and thusly, how your characters interact with each other and the outside forces. Some stories flow with poetic flare, bringing about a need for unbroken dialog and meaningful phrases. Others go for a more real-life approach, full of ums and uhs and cool, mans. There’s really nothing wrong with either of these styles, but you must always take into account the story itself when letting these characters flow.

The fiction you write must be written how it’s meant to be, regardless of what you want it to be. You are a world inside a writer, not a writer inside a world. Despite what it looks like to others, and what you wish to be so, the story will come out as need be. Your characters are a reflection of you, yes, but also of the story at its core. Do you want your prose to be something someone can get lost in? Write a character that will take them along. Want a novel that someone can see parallels to their own life? Write a character down to earth and relatable in to the everyday.

Whatever you do, make certain your writing isn’t forced. You may be typing out a short story, but those seven characters means fourteen extra hands building what you couldn’t hope to do alone. Trust yourself, but trust your work even more.


Best Tardy, director of marketing and communications at Art Is Life Studio, is an amateur overachiever, semi-professional novelist, fierce poet, and the all-around best man you’ll ever meet. Best has Bipolar Disorder and Unflinching Terminal Intelligence (UTI), which he uses to make jokes in times of great crisis and unneed. Best is aware that you want to make puns off his name.