How To Create Realistic Fiction Characters For Children’s Books

Creating Realistic Fiction Characters

One of the fundamental keys to writing great fiction stories is knowing how to create realistic fiction characters for your children’s books.  Having characters that children can identify with and want to emulate is the key to getting children to read your stories.  If you want to create compelling characters you have to draw them from your memory, your consciousness as well as your imagination but there’s one place many of us forget to look and that is the people we know.

What Are The Traits Of Good Fictional Characters?

The best characters are the ones that remind us of ourselves.  The type of struggles, pain, successes and failures we all go through all rolled into one.  If you can get your audience to relate and care about your characters then you’ve made that emotional connection so important to getting people to read your stories.

There Are 4 Elements To Realizing Fully Formed Characters:

  1. A Driving Need
  2. A Secret
  3. A Contradiction
  4. A Vulnerability

Let’s look at each one and how they relate to writing memorable characters.

A Driving Need – It’s a fundamental truth that all characters have a deep seated want or desire. This desire must be so strong that the character would do anything to acquire it.   This desire creates conflict and conflict is what propels the story.  When you have a character who wants to do something you can put all kinds of conflict in his way and this conflict creates a tension that keeps the audience on their toes because they don’t know what’s coming next.

Secret – This could be a trait or something from the past the character doesn’t want to be known that if revealed would cause the character pain and possibly change the character’s place among family and friends.  We all know our own past and many of us don’t want these things to come out.  The same goes for your characters.  If you can get them to have a secret revealed you can then put conflict in their way since secrets have a way of opening all kinds of conflict.

Contradiction – Contradiction is all based on unpredictability.  This type of action keeps your readers reading.  they want to know why they did what they did.  These contradictions reveal what we cannot predict.  It’s this surprising behavior in the story that makes for compelling characters because they show the humanity all of us feel.

Vulnerability – This is a direct result of a character’s secret or their need or desire.  From this comes the strength to finish what they started in the story.  Ambition and focus implies  strong desire but their inherent vulnerability is what draws us to them.  We feel for the character and this draws a strong response from the reader.

How To Bring These Elements Out In Your Characters

Our story emerges from the characters we write but how do we bring out these elements.  We often look for inspiration to write memorable characters but we can find them in everyday life.  The wants, needs and desires of everyday people can be great inspiration for memorable characters. The problems our characters face should be problems we all face.  You can find these problems in the most unusual places and people.  From that stranger you just met to a family member or co-worker who is going through a bad time.

Look to base your characters on real people and then combine traits from a combination of people to form a character that you can put in your story.  Add the flaws, the strengths and the physical appearances to form the basis of a strong character.  Another way we can add these elements to our characters is by drawing on our own lives.  We all have problems, inner torment, failures, frustrations and disappointments as well as successes, joy and fun.

Look for times in our own lives where strong emotions played a vital role and then use that as inspiration to form a vivid picture of who your characters really are.  Once you can do this, your audience will eat your characters up.  You will have made the leap to great characterization.


A. J. Westin is a children's adventure book author who specializes in writing stories kids really want to read. He has written over two dozen books and has dedicated his life to helping kids become better readers through his inspirational stories.
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  1. Pingback: How to Use Your Inner Child To Write Great Children's Stories | A. J. Westin

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