March 04, 2008

Characters - Part 3: What Makes a Good One?

Writers, readers, and viewers love (and love to hate) characters. We interact with the story’s players as they confront the world around them, and we evaluate the players based on our own experience.

As writers, readers, and viewers, what can we take away from this knowledge?

  1. Characters should be like Kobe Bryant (see previous post)—never one-dimensional. Some things about them are good. Some aren’t. Sure, heroes should be heavily weighted towards being a “good person,” but they should also have a fatal flaw. Sometimes strengths are weaknesses in big doses (strong convictions become stubbornness). Sometimes strengths and flaws clash (like fighting addiction). Whatever the case, characters (heroes and villains) possess multiple qualities, good and bad.
  2. Strong characters = characters that we relate to. We want to be more like them. We see their traits mirrored in those around us. The things we like about our friends and family, things we disdain in our enemies (and co-workers, as the case may be).

Characters are fictional people, but they are people, so they have traits, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses.

Writers, when creating a character, look around and make notes—they're all around you. Readers and viewers, identify what it is you like or dislike about a character. Chances are, you’ve encountered it in your own life.

What else would you include in this list? What else makes a great character?


Unknown said...

wait a minute, Kobe is not one-dimensional? Am i missing something? i thought he was stuck in the "i don''t need any teammates" dimension!

I was just going to say that people should probably try to combine the attributes of people around them, so as to not copy a person, because you don't want that person possibly getting mad at you. anyhow, good stuff brother.

anyhow, enough about Kobe. random note, but when you click on the show original post button, the text comes up with the top line of your post as on top of the "show original post button" making both of them impossible to read.

J Sherer said...

I know, it's hard to find the good in Kobe. Hahahaha. I'll try and stay objective (just for this blog, elsewhere I'll be happy to vent).

You bring up a good point. You definitely can't copy someone exactly and make things so obvious that you get sued. But, you can definitely take traits from different people and combine them. So, I like your suggestion, and I agree that would be the best bet.

I'm not sure about the "original post" button. It was working for me!

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

Characters also need to change/develop throughout the course of the story. It doesn't have to be every character, but the good ones, the main ones--they need to experience conflict and be affected by it. They could change for better or worse, but they aren't interesting if they are stagnant entities.