Importance of Character Authenticity


Authenticity in Character Development

In the world of storytelling, characters are the lifeblood that breathes life into the narrative. They are the vessels through which we explore human experiences, emotions, and motivations. However, creating authentic and compelling characters is no easy feat. It requires a deep understanding of their core essence, their motivations, and the intricacies that shape their actions.

On LinkedIn the other day, I posted about Indiana Jones.

Why is Indiana Jones a terrible archeologist?
He saves the golden amulet
Not the temple it's in.
If your character has a job
You need to understand
What that job
Truly means
What it
Or is
If you don't learn the basics of the job
That defines your character
You're off to a bad start
Authenticity doesn't mean you need to be an archeologist
It means you need to understand the basic point of view
Of the person who would be in that position
And extrapolate from their experience.
If Indiana Jones chooses to take the artifact
Instead of saving the temple
There's far more there to
Explore in the story
about how the
Turns away
from their

It's impossible to underestimate the importance of truly understanding a character's profession, motivations, and the consequences of their actions. The example of Indiana Jones choosing to save the golden amulet instead of the temple is a poignant illustration of how a character's actions can deviate from their intended role or profession.

Your Storytelling Responsibility

As storytellers, we have a responsibility to delve deeper into the psyche of our characters, exploring the nuances that make them unique and true to their essence. Authenticity isn't about merely portraying a character's occupation or surface-level traits; it's about understanding the deeper motivations, beliefs, and experiences that shape their worldview and actions.

When we fail to grasp the core essence of a character, we create caricatures or one-dimensional beings that lack depth and resonance. Authentic characters, on the other hand, are multi-faceted, complex, and relatable. They possess flaws, strengths, and a rich collection of experiences that inform their decisions and actions.

What if you write a character who is a police officer?

On the surface, you may assume their primary motivation is to uphold the law and protect the community. However, a truly authentic portrayal would delve deeper into their personal history, their ethical beliefs, and the challenges they face in navigating the complexities of their profession.

Perhaps they witnessed a murder as a child, shaping their unwavering commitment to justice, or maybe they struggle with the moral ambiguity by not standing up for their friend in high school, forcing them to grapple with the gray areas of their role.

What Layers Do

By exploring these deeper layers, we create characters that feel alive and real, allowing readers to empathize and connect on a deeper level. Authenticity breeds emotional resonance, and emotional resonance is what makes a character truly unforgettable.

Authenticity in character development often leads to unexpected and compelling storylines. When we truly understand a character's motivations and the consequences of their actions, we open the door to exploring the ripple effects that emanate from their choices. In the case of Indiana Jones, his decision to prioritize the golden amulet over the temple could lead to a fascinating exploration of the consequences of that choice – the destruction of cultural heritage, the loss of invaluable historical knowledge, or even the impact on his professional reputation and relationships.

Authenticity Is a Challenge and…

By embracing authenticity, we also challenge ourselves as writers and storytellers. We are forced to confront our own biases, assumptions, and limitations, pushing us to conduct thorough research, consult experts, and immerse ourselves in the perspectives of those whose experiences differ from our own. This process not only enriches our characters but also broadens our own understanding of the world and the complexities of human nature.

Authenticity demands that we dig deeper, challenge our assumptions, and embrace the nuances that make our characters human – flawed, complex, and beautifully imperfect.

Exercise: Exploring Character Motivation

Think of a character from a story you're familiar with or one you've created yourself.

Write a detailed backstory for this character, delving into their childhood experiences, formative moments, beliefs, and values.

Explore the events, relationships, and circumstances that have shaped their worldview and influenced their current motivations.

Then, analyze how these motivations manifest in their actions and decisions within the story, considering the consequences—both intended and unintended—that arise from their choices.