It’s been much too long since my last update. Well, I got busy this week and just didn’t have the time for much of anything else, unfortunately. So, starting today, I’m going to post a continuing series on characters, how I write them and why I write them the way I do.
Part 1 – Complex Individuals
I’ve written a lot of different characters. Young characters, old characters, male and female. With every single one of them I’ve always tried to make them feel as much like real people as possible. Give them backstories, give them lives, give them goals, and give them struggles. That’s what makes a character interesting. However, there’s a tendency, especially among less experienced writers, to simply write characters who are really “cool” and strong and who dispatch every problem with ease. I had that same problem for a while, but I learned quickly that characters of that nature are simply boring.
A character who can do anything and never has any problems isn’t interesting. More than a story filled with dragons and magic, stories like that are fantasy. Readers want to see a character struggle, to wonder how they going to make it through this terrible trial, and cheer as they push their way through to the goal. Would you be interested in watching a sports movie about a quarterback who never missed a pass, never got sacked, and won ten Superbowls in a row because that’s just how great he was? Of course not, because there’s simply nothing there. But a story about a young quarterback who must overcome personal and on-the-field struggles to finally win the Superbowl for a team that’s been in the dump for years, that’s something people would be interested in. It’s interesting because the outcome isn’t guaranteed.
Another problem that can arise is when you are simply introducing characters to move the plot forward. They don’t have their own lives or personalities, they just exist to do something or say something that the main characters must respond to. Through this, the plot is moved forward. Now, it’s not always a bad idea to use the introduction of a new character to move the plot forward, but does this character exist beyond that brief appearance? The character needs to make sense within the context of the situation, the reader needs to get the feeling that this characters exists within this world and something in their life and their personality has brought them to this point where they interact with the main character. Throwing out something random just won’t do.
Think about the character and what has brought them to this point. Just because they haven’t appeared before and may only appear sparingly from then on, they are still every bit a real person as the main character, we [the reader] simply aren’t allowed a peak into the inner workings of their life. Why did they do that? Why did they sat that? Ask those questions when a character appears. Even though they may not seem important, minor characters aren’t just props that can be thrown out there as needed. Give them some life, let them breathe, and your world will be that much richer and interesting for it.