Building believable characters

Do a brainstorming exercise. Get a piece of paper and write down the
names of the two key players.

Ask yourself such things as:

What does this person love? Want? Need?

What bad habit does this person have?

What secret?

What shame?

Something that would make others hate them

Write all of this down on your bit of paper.

Now go to a fast food restaurant and get an application form (or two).
Try to fill the application out as if you were one of those characters.
You’ll be surprised at what they tell you.

Now think of the relationship between your two key characters. Think of
each of their wants/needs/loves. How do they interact? If one character
achieves a want/need/love, does that mean the other character loses the
same? That is a story.

Now set that all aside and write a simple scene with one of these
characters. Don’t try to do too much with it. Show the character
involved in a daily task. Give the character the opportunity to reflect
on things and react to things. It is what happens inside that most
counts, not the outer journalistic stuff. Readers want to step inside a
character’s head and live that person’s life for awhile. Your job is to
enable that.

Once you’ve written that scene, ask yourself “and then what happens?”
Write that. When you write yourself into a corner, try stepping into the
head of your other key character. Repeat.