Guest Post | Writing Believable Characters by Brenda Chapman

“Writing Believable Characters”

By Brenda Chapman

Human beings lead messy, complicated lives. To be believable, characters in novels need to mirror the conflicted personalities of very real people. Without ambiguities and nuances, a character runs the risk of becoming a one-dimensional caricature.

Creating believable characters can be accomplished by writing internal dialogue that shows the struggles going on inside. The reader is allowed into secret places that build understanding and often empathy even if the character chooses the wrong path. In the case of murder mysteries, the muddier the victim’s life, the more opportunity there is to reveal them as a fully formed and complicated person. This holds true for the killer as well. Skillful writing can lead readers into feeling sympathy for the villain while denouncing their actions.

Dialogue is a second tool in a writer’s kit that can make a character believable. A writer needs to be attuned to language patterns and expressions used by real people. The trick is giving enough dialogue to make a character come to life while writing concisely — distilling a conversation to information that moves a scene forward.

The decision to write a story in the first or third person has tremendous impact on revealing character. In the case of first person, the reader receives all the information filtered through the lens of the narrator. The character who is telling the story becomes like a friend confiding a narrative from their viewpoint. They can toy with the reader’s emotions and build a connection. This point of view is easiest for writing internal dialogue but can pose a challenge for developing secondary characters since readers do not have access to their thoughts and feelings in the same way.

Writing in third person lets the author into the internal lives of as many characters as they wish. Characters can give their thoughts and feelings about other characters and can give insight into their own motivations. This point of view can feel less intimate than first person, however. The reader is not privy to the internal workings of one character to the same degree.

Another way to make characters believable is to ground them in the routines and concerns common to everyone. A character might drink coffee in the morning, take the bus to work, eat tuna fish sandwiches for lunch, disagree with their boss. Every detail builds to create a whole person. The objective is to make readers believe the character is real and to care what happens to them.

I am always tickled to have readers talk about my characters as if they exist. Some tell me that they’ve stayed up all night reading because they need to know what happens to them. As a fiction writer, creating imaginary but believable people out of words alone and making readers feel something for them is nothing short of magical when all the pieces come together.

Brenda 1 publicity photo 2016Brenda Chapman is a Canadian crime writer who has penned three series and a few standalone novels. She currently has seventeen books published since her first release in 2004, entitled Running Scared, which was the first of four books in the Jennifer Bannon young adult mysteries.

Brenda is now writing two separate series for two different publishers— the Anna Sweet novellas for adult literacy with Grass Roots Press; and the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series for Dundurn Press.

Her books have been shortlisted for several major awards including the 2006 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award for Children (Hiding in Hawk’s Creek), two Golden Oak Awards for adult literacy (The Second Wife and The Hard Fall) and two Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards for novella and crime novel of the year respectively (My Sister’s Keeper and Cold Mourning).

The fifth in the Anna Sweet mysteries entitled No Trace was released in September 2016, with the sixth, Missing Her being released this fall. The fourth in the Stonechild and Rouleau series entitled Shallow End was published in March 2017. Watch for the fifth entitled Bleeding Darkness to be released in May 2018.

Brenda is a former special education teacher and senior communications advisor, now writing full time. She lives in Ottawa.









Author Interview | Joanne Clancy

Do you guys remember the time I kind of fangirled about a book named “Tear Drop”? Wasn’t long ago, right? 😉 If you don’t then check it out here. 😀

I was so impressed by this book that I decided to let my feelings known. I contacted the person who created this impressive piece and she turned out to be so sweet that I couldn’t help ask her for an interview. Without further delay, I present to you guys, *drumrolls please*, JOANNE CLANCY. (Did I tell you I love your name because I do. 😉 🙂 )


A lit bit about Joanne-

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Joanne Clancy is a Kindle All-Star and an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award quarter-finalist. Joanne is an Irish mystery writer, from Cork, Ireland. She is an avid reader, a self-confessed Kindle addict, and a tea fiend!
Her books combine murder, mystery, and suspense with a twist of psychological drama.
Her crime books have consistently hit the Amazon paid bestseller lists in Crime, Thrillers & Mystery.
Joanne’s latest release is TEAR DROP (Detective Elizabeth Ireland Crime Thriller Series, Book 1). She is currently working on her twenty-sixth book, INSINCERE (Detective Elizabeth Ireland Crime Thriller Series, Book 2) which is available to pre-order now at Amazon and will be released on October 21st 2015.


Crime Novels:
*Tear Drop (Detective Elizabeth Ireland, Book 1)
*Insincere (Detective Elizabeth Ireland, Book 2)

*Open Your Eyes
*Return to Me
*I Should Have Told You
*Before I’m Gone
*The Gift
*The Detective’s Wife
*If You Tell Anyone

*Killing Time
*A Daughter’s Secret
*Killer Friends
*The Offering

Romance Novels
*The Unfaithful Series:
*Unfaithfully Yours
*Web of Deceit

*The Secrets & Lies Trilogy:
*Secrets & Lies

*Unforgettable Embrace
*The Wedding Day

I decided to make this interview fun by dividing it into 3 categories and convenient too.


Questions related to Joanne’s book (Tear Drop):

Tear Drop: Irish Crime Thriller (Detective Elizabeth Ireland Crime Thriller Series Book 1)

1. What made you choose the name, Elizabeth Ireland, for the protagonist?
I’ve always loved the name Elizabeth. I think the name suits my female protagonist’s character; it’s a no-nonsense name for a no-nonsense character, but has a certain element of mystery because of it’s regal association.

2. What makes Elizabeth, according to you, different from the other detectives in the story apart from her secret?
I think the cases affect Elizabeth more than the other detectives. She tends to see the humanity in others. For her, detective work is getting to the heart of the matter, whereas for the other detectives it’s all about solving the case, and when it’s done, it’s done. Elizabeth is far from perfect, but she makes no apologies for who she is. She tries to portray a tough exterior, but deep down she’s a big softie with a heart of gold.

3. That felt like talking about a real person. 😛 Will we get a better picture on Elizabeth’s and Frank’s relationship in the further books? (I really confused him as her friend in the beginning)
Yes, there will be more on their relationship in future books, but even I’m not sure what’s in store for them…stay tuned…

4. Were there alternate endings you considered?
I had a few other killers in mind, but I’m happy with my final decision.

5. Which character from the book did you find the easiest to write about?
Elizabeth Ireland was the easiest character to write about. I like her cheeky sense of humour and her directness. She’s far from perfect, but makes no apologies for who she is. She tries to portray a tough exterior, but deep down she’s a big softie with a heart of gold. In previous books, I’ve tended to over-think my characters a little, but with Elizabeth I just let her voice take over in my head as I write.

We are quite alike in some ways, and I’ve always been fascinated by the life of a private detective and all the secrets they discover or are told, so Elizabeth’s character allowed me to indulge that side of myself.

6. What got left out in the final draft? 😛
Apart from a few minor adjustments I didn’t leave out anything major.

Questions related to being an author:

1. Are you a plotter or pantster?
I used to be a pantster, but I’m a definite plotter now. I write an outline of the story and then I plot it chapter by chapter, but I do leave some room for manoeuvre.

2. What’s more important for you: characters or plot?
Both are equally important, I believe, but great characters drive the plot.

3. You have 26 books out there already. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I aim to write 3,000 words 6 days a week.
I try to get the first draft written within a few weeks. I write lots of notes on the first draft to follow up later when I’m editing because I don’t like to interrupt the flow by getting bogged down in too many details initially. The second draft is all about the follow-up and fleshing out the story and characters. The third draft is where I tighten everything up. Fourth draft is the final writing round. From start to finish, it probably takes me about six weeks to write a book.

4. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others?
I don’t like writing very bloody or gory scenes, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. I prefer to hint at a gruesome scene rather than go in to graphic detail.

5. We know your books are mainly psychological mystery/thriller but which other genre you would want to try your hands on?
I started writing romance novels, then went into romantic suspense, and finally mystery / thriller. Mystery/ thriller writing is definitely my favourite genre.

6. Tell us about the covers and how they came about. (All 26 of your books have beautiful covers.  )
Thank you ☺I base the covers on a key theme or scene in the book, then I spend weeks looking through stock photos to try to find the ideal cover shot.

Proof of the beautiful covers:

All the pictures are linked back to their Goodreads pages. Do check them out and check out the list of her books here. 🙂

Btw, Being the sweetheart she is, Joanne sends out free ebooks to her readers. Get lucky! 😀 Sign up for Joanne’s mailing list at to receive three best-selling mystery books for FREE! 😀

Questions for fun: 

1. Do you have any scars? What are they from?
I still have scars on my knees from all the falls I had as a child.

2. What do you want your tombstone to say?
99 per cent angel, but oh that 1 per cent!

3. Characters often find them in situations that they aren’t sure they can get themselves out of. When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Someone broke into my house and crept up the stairs to my bedroom. I tiptoed across the room and pushed my bookcase against the door. When they tried to push the door open, they hit the bookcase and ran! They were never caught, but I can say that my quick thinking and my bookcase saved me….

(Books, hehehhe. 😛 That’s what they do. They save you. 😛 )

4. Share a fun fact with us before signing off.
I wrote my first 16 books in a campervan.

Wow! That was fun, wasn’t it? 😀 Stay tuned for the Giveaway of Joanne’s Book “Tear Drop“. The book that introduced me to her. I will be hosting a giveaway in October. Try to get the book so that we can discuss it. 😀

Before I sign off for today. I would really love to Thank Joanne, for being so sweet and down-to-earth and putting up with me. 😛 Seriously, I will soon have read all your books because “Tear Drop” sold me on it. 🙂 🙂 ❤ ❤