Friday, October 24, 2008

Character - Believability

It's Friday! I'm happy to report this very well known fact to everyone!

Today, I'm contining on with my lessons. But before I get to the goodies, I want to announce that soon I will be hosting a Literary Agent as a guest blogger. Everyone needs to see this! He will be discussing many things and everyone, published writer or not, should tune in. I'll announce when he will be on in advance so you can be sure to remember to get over to this blog.

Okay, now on to the goodies I promised. Today, we're discussing Characters - Believability.

Character Believability

When you create your character, be sure to place him or her in the correct setting. For example, would you find a high-powered attorney living in filth in a cabin without electricity? If you do not determine and use the correct setting for your character, he or she will not be believable.

In the famous story “Rip Van Winkle” by Washington Irving¹, the story is set in a village in the mountains near the Hudson River. As the story is told, Rip Van Winkle falls asleep for many years in the mountains. If this setting was in the midst of busy New York City, would it be believable that Rip Van Winkle wanders off to the mountains and falls asleep? Perhaps not. In this example either the entire story seems unlikely or at the very least, the setting.

1 Hopper, Vincent. Classic American Short Stories. New York: Barron’s Educational, 1964.

I would like to see you all create a character (or use one you have) and put him or her in a setting that I would believe that person fits into. Don't put poor Rip in New York City. Make me believe this character is real.

I can't wait to see what you all come up with!

Starr Reina


Anonymous said...


I wrote a book called, "Love's Blind Eye". In my book Benjamin Drake was the son of a successful business man and Benjamin owns several vitage cars--his passion. He has a special garage where he keeps them and takes care of them as if they were his children.

I couldn't imagine him having a hobby like rock collecting and such. Not that it's not a good hobby, but being from a rich, advantaged family, his toys would be bigger and more expensive.

Thanks for the lesson. I enjoyed it as always.

Terri Ann Armstrong, Author/Editor

David said...

Here's an excerpt from my WIP. It involves the key character (not the protagonist) of the whole book. She's new. I realized, however, that I should have used a pronoun the second time I mention her name. Never-the-less here she is:

Missy Tanner walked through the soft autumn mist in despair as thick and dark as night itself. The dismal blackness was lit only by a few street lights and signs in shop windows. Missy wandered about the streets of Port Jervis, New York, and as she wandered down Front Street she looked at the bridge crossing the Delaware River into Matamoras, Pennsylvania. It was inviting. Less than a hundred yards away and all she had to do was walk to the middle, drop into the icy waters beneath and it'd all be over. Yet she couldn't bring herself to do it. Not even on a night as dreary as this, not even with her heart torn open and aching. Instead she was drawn up Pike Street where she hung out near the bar. Totally soaked, yet not caring, she stood under the awning of an adjacent store that had closed hours ago. Her blond hair clung to her face as tears burned their way down her cheeks. Things would never be right again, never.

David Brollier

Anonymous said...

I will start also by saying that to make a story believable even though its fiction, there other things important to ensure they're in place. Like the character's name and the way he/she dresses. As a fantasy writer I tend to research my settings so they fall into place. Whether the characters are placed in past or present settings, as you mentioned, if we put our characters in the wrong setting, our readers are going to laugh at our incompetence. Or if we give our characters an American name when he/she is far from that possibility, we would be the laughing stock of many. I know I'm blabbering here but right now I don't have a setting to project my ideas. ;-)

Thanks for the 411 enlightenment.


Starr Reina said...

Terri, thank you for your comment. You've told us a little of the character and why you feel he's believable. Would you mind sharing, perhaps, a passage that shows why WE should feel he's believable?



This a great description of the setting and the character. However, can I see more of why we should believe that Miss Tanner should be in that particular setting? How can we, as the readers, believe that she belongs there and not,for example, trying to kill herself (which is what I'm gathering) by slitting her wrists in a bath tub. What I mean is this: why did she choose the idea of the Delaware River?

Thanks, David.



I cannot agree with you more when you said, "Like the character's name and the way he/she dresses." You are absolutely correct. There are many variables to consider when placing a character in a certain setting or describing what that person may be wearing. You have a firm graps of what I'm getting at, that's for sure. Although, you don't have an example written, can you maybe write one to give the readers an example of what you are alluding to? Period dressing, start with that. I can't wait to see what you do!


DJ said...

What a great idea - an update of Rip Van Winkle in New York City. The question I have, is HOW can you make it believable (as opposed to it can't be done)? - This sounds like a movie waiting to be made.

Starr Reina said...


If you're offering up a challenge of Rip Van Winkle in modern day times in NY, then I'm willing to see what you and I can do with that! What are your thoughts? Please email me off-blog at


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