Welcome once again to another week of alphabet madness.
This week, something we’ve all probably addressed quite a few time, but as it is C week, I’m talking characters once again.
I think the two of the biggest challenges when creating characters are making each character distinct from the others and making sure they are not a caricature of a realistic human being.
Let’s address the first point: the more characters there are in a novel, the harder it is to keep track of them all. This may not be strictly true, but if you have ten main characters that your reader is trying to keep track of it could get a little confusing. Two or three core characters is the way to go with the other characters a bit more in the background.
One thing I find hard to get my head around when writing is a scene when three or more people are having the same conversation. The thing I find is differentiating between each character without having “….said” after each sentence. Maybe my characters don’t have distinct enough voices yet, but as a young writer I think I’ve got plenty of time to work and improve on that.
I think another problem with having too many main characters is that you don’t know which one to care about. I think ideally when there is an identifiable bad (I don’t want to use the word villain) character and two main (good) characters, you know who you should care about and why. Sometimes if you’re in first person, the character will even tell you.
Now for the second point – caricatures. I can see how it is easy to create a caricatures of certain stereotypes in life, whether personality traits or national stereotypes but if a writer is using a lazy stereotype instead of creating their own characters, you have to wonder why they’re doing it in the first place.
Then there’s the characters who are seemingly brilliant at everything. Now everybody knows the famous phrase “nobody’s perfect”, and writers should listen to that. It’s so easy to make your character brilliant at everything because that way they are easier to write about. We don’t like people having flaws, but people have them. Characters who are clever, witty, charming, generous and all around good people aren’t that realistic and really aren’t that interesting.
There is a technical term in literature called ‘the fatal flaw’. Now this may not be the exact use of it but to me it’s the one thing that makes the character do things they probably shouldn’t. For example, in Harry Potter, Harry’s fatal flaw is that he feels he has to be the one to save everything and he has to do it alone (see the end of The Half Blood Prince). He could have sat back, done nothing and let Voldemort conquer the wizarding world but his fatal flaw, his inability to just sit back gets in the way. Without it, there’d be no story.
I don’t actively try and identify my characters fatal flaws (by that I mean I don’t commit to paper before hand what they are) but I do try and give them moments in which the fatal flaw shines through.
That’s all for now, see you next week with D.
Currently reading: Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie.