Rough Those Characters Up

There is a tendency, particularly when we ‘role-play’ our characters we are writing, at a site like Pan Historia to make them a little too good, too bad, or too beautiful. This is perfectly natural, and I cannot make a good argument against it if you’re just writing to have fun imagining yourself as your perfect creation. I totally believe in the magic of the imagination. If, however, you are interested in creating characters that fascinate your readers more than yourself you have to let go of some of that perfection. I don’t even think the Great Divine All That Is loves perfection because it so seldom, if ever, exists in creation – so if you’re writing even a teensy bit for your audience you need to spice it up a bit and use all the paints on the palette (mangling metaphors is my specialty).

Of course if your character is an evil Prince of the Unseelie Court, one of the immortal Elves (in the Tolkien and historical sense, not the Pixie sense, thanks Skyclad – see previous posting and comments), you can get away with a lot more perfection. First of all we love to root for that sexy alluring villain who just seems to have it all, including absolutely no moral barometer at all, because he’s very much a fantasy figure for most of us, and we know he gets what he deserves in the end. “Oh if only I could get away with that behavior and be that sexy…” or my favorite Black Widow Spider syndrome: “I could bed him/her but would I be able to get out of bed before she/he bites my head off?” This will not do, on the other hand, for the hero.

Fine, make your hero handsome, but there has to be some character flaws there and their path to victory must never be simple or easy. In other words you have to let that sexy villain have their way with them for a while. Or don’t make your hero handsome – he could be a shy slightly over-weight computer programmer that suddenly finds himself in post-apocalyptic Nevada with a girl to protect and an over the top gung-ho Rambo type with a chip on his shoulder as fellow survivor. It’s the flaws that make the hero riveting. The hero of my supernatural novel starts out as a cynic, a lost his belief romantic, and a slob. He will have to be slapped around a lot to even understand that he has to BE the hero. Your hero can be fooled, duped, or even lied to. It’s ok, he’s only human (unless he’s not). Your heroine might not have the biggest breasts on the block and she might have to wear glasses to read. She may not know all the ninja arts and also look great in 4 inch heels.

Another thing to remember about real people is that not everyone likes them. Remember to let your writing partners view your character through their character’s eyes. In collaborative fiction writing we have a tendency to want to make sure that the other person writes our character ‘right’. That’s fine – it’s important to make sure your character is not acting out of character – but it should not extend to how the other characters view your character. It’s ok to be misinterpreted, misconstrued, or even just disliked. That creates tension in the storyline and drama to the plot. Non-player characters are great for giving another point of view on your character so don’t forget to use them liberally. I particularly like to portray my character’s appearance and demeanor through alternating POVs rather than doing a lot of description from my character’s story posts.

Anyone have good tips on making your character more real?

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About panhistoria

writer, online community creator, and artist View all posts by panhistoria

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