by Anna Willett
For Milly Birdsworth and Her sister Judith, a two day trip in an isolated area of the National Park seems like an ideal way to mend their tattered relationship. With Milly’s best friend Harper along for moral support and experienced hiker Lucas as their guide, it seems nothing can go wrong.
But when everyone has something to hide, it’s difficult to know who to trust. What starts out as an adventure to bring two sisters together quickly becomes a terrifying ordeal where old wounds are exposed and a deadly tragedy is brought to light. One thing is clear, someone is seeking retribution and won’t stop until the guilty are punished.
Milly reached for her hand under the sleeping bag. It felt icy. “Anything could be happening. We don’t know it was Harper screaming.” There was so much she wanted to say. So many things she needed to tell her, but now wasn’t the time.
“What’s that?” Judith jumped and squeezed her hand tight enough to cut off the circulation. “In the trees, I… I thought I heard something.”
Milly followed her sister’s gaze. Three metres beyond the fire lay only blackness. It was impossible to see anything, human or animal. Suddenly Milly wondered if the fire was a good idea. If there was someone out there, the light would make the two women clearly visible to anyone watching. They’d be easy targets. Targets for what? Her mind raced in a dozen half-formed directions, all of them ominous. She shuddered and leaned against her sister.
“I don’t hear anything,” Milly whispered. “Maybe it’s an animal. A kangaroo or something.”
Creating believable characters is, in many ways the most important part of writing fiction. As writers, we want readers to invest in the story, believe in the characters so much so that they are willing to invest their time and money. A story that resonates with readers, stays with them long after they’ve finished reading, does so through characters that come to life and exist not only on the page but in reader’s minds. An expertly drawn character can transcend an unbelievable plot or a fanciful ending. Think of Matilda, a school girl with an abnormally high IQ discovers she has telekinetic powers which help her foil a murderous Head Mistress. Sound far-fetched? Of course, but that hasn’t stopped generations of children and adults falling in love with Matilda, Miss Honey and to some extent Miss Trunchbull.
I will grant that Matilda is a children’s book and as such can lean a little further towards the extreme end of believability. However, the same can be said for adult fiction. Adult readers are just as likely to suspend disbelief, if the characters are worth investing in.
So what makes a character believable? Among other things, faults, weakness, back story, problems, personal growth and logical behaviour. Absolutes never work. By absolutes I mean characters who are all good or all bad. These types of fictional characters come across as one-dimensional cardboard creations whose only purpose is to drive the story. By giving characters flaws and weaknesses, they become, through their humanity, not only real, but relatable.
A back story is also vital to a well-rounded character. A character’s past can and should contribute to their personality traits as well as their actions. If the protagonist had a cold unfeeling father, they may be more likely to seek love and approval and in doing so might overlook another person’s obvious failings. Readers may not agree with the character’s actions or choices, but they will understand and accept their motivation.
No one’s life is perfect, everyone has problems. Doubts, fear and insecurities are the things that get in our way and often prevent us from achieving our goals or in some cases have us doing the wrong thing. This must also be the case for fictional characters. Their personal problems drive them in some instances to do the wrong thing, but their failings can also lead to personal growth. A character who fears commitment might unknowingly push people away, but in recognising this in themselves, they have the opportunity for growth.
A character with all the essential ingredients will never really resonate with readers unless they act in a logical way. That’s not to say that they always do the right thing. They may make stupid mistakes in judgement, let people down or fail to act in a life or death situation. All of these things are acceptable as long as they are done for a reason. If the character has a fear of authority, they might refuse to go to the police and seek help. Their actions may seem frustrating, but they must make sense based on their backstory, fears, doubts and weaknesses.
Having said all that, your main character doesn’t have to be boring and mundane just to be believable. The heroine/hero can be clever and resourceful or beautiful and strong, just not without some failings. In fact most memorable characters are exceptional. After all, readers are seeking escapism as long as the heroine doesn’t suddenly turn from a receptionist into a kung-Fu kicking badass without any previous training or experience – those characters really bug me.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper and Retribution Ridge. Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna enjoys writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband and two children.
GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE
Anna Willett will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via Enter to win a $10 Amazon/BN GC – during the tour.
Lorana Hoopes is a Christian author who focuses on children’s book and adult inspirational books with a touch of romance.Her books are available at Amazon.