24 4 / 2014
24 4 / 2014
If you’re having trouble making your characters interesting or you feel like all your characters turn out the same, you’re probably creating flat characters. If your character hasn’t undergone a significant change during the course of your novel or your audience is having trouble relating to them, you need find ways to improve this. It’s important to remember that all your characters need to have goals, no matter how small, and they need to be actively working toward those goals to stay interesting.
Your protagonist should be relatable and realistic. Even if your readers don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing, they should be able to feel what your protagonist is going through. This is your job as a writer. You need to get your readers to understand their thought process or what they’re going through, even if they’ve never experienced it themselves. This can be achieved by using real-life emotions in your story, so it’s important you don’t ignore the emotional aspects of storytelling. Most people will understand love, fear, sadness, happiness—EVEN if they’ve never been in the situation your protagonist is in.
One of the most important things to remember is that your character’s actions should remain realistic. And I don’t mean that they need to do things only we can do in our world, but their actions need to stay true to their world. Their actions should make sense in context to what they’re going through.
Your protagonist should also be a problem solver and proactive. A character with good morals will have integrity, but we all know not all main character have good intentions. However, all protagonists should be able to do things on their own, or else they’re going to be a weak protagonist. I’m not saying they don’t need help, but they need to overcome the big challenges on their own. They can’t just stand around waiting for everyone else to finish things. They need to take initiative at some point, and this should be due to their personal growth throughout the story.
Here are some tips on improving flat characters:
Focus on primary traits, complexity traits, and character flaws.
Primary traits: Every character you write should have primary traits. These are things like smart, funny, inquisitive, etc. These aren’t necessarily anything deep, but they give the reader enough to understand what sort of category or archetype that character fits in.
Complexity traits: Adding complexity traits will be what adds more depth to your characters, and will make your characters interesting. This is necessary if you are building lead characters/main characters. With complexity traits, you plan out the primary traits with more detail. For example, if your character is smart explain what he or she is smart in. Does he or she know a lot about history? Are they good at math?
Character Flaws: Finally, give that character flaws. These flaws humanize your characters and they generally stand in the way of your character’s success. It’s important that your characters fail sometimes and that these failures are a result of their personal flaws. No one wants to see a perfect character. We want to see someone who is able to pull themselves back together after experiencing failure. We want to see them earn their success.
Next, focus on character goals and motivations.
Character goals: Every single character your write needs to want something. They need to have a goal and those goals will drive your story forward. For example, your main character might want to run a marathon. It’s a big deal for them and they spend your entire novel training (and failing at training) until the end when they finally do it. Running that marathon is their goal throughout your novel and they won’t stop until they succeed. Remember, character goals are different from motivations.
Also, keep in mind that even secondary characters need to want something. Develop each character and make sure you understand why they want to do something. What do they get from helping out your main character? Why do they care so much? Think about what’s at stake for them.
Motivations: There are certain things that will push your characters forward. Expanding on the marathon scenario above, maybe your main character has to finish a marathon because they will win 1 million dollars if they do. Maybe their family is poor and this is the only way to help them. That’s your character motivation. It’s obvious they really care about their family and they need the money. It’s important to understand why your character is doing something and why they want something. What will accomplishing their goals do for them? Why do they need to do? Again, what’s at stake if they don’t?
Character development is a long, in-depth process, but hopefully following these steps will help you out. It’s important that you keep your characters proactive or else you run the risk of them becoming boring. Characters that work actively toward their goals are the most interesting.
24 4 / 2014
Anonymous asked: any tips for finding plot holes and also ways to avoid them?
Plot holes occur when
- Characters having knowledge of something never presented to them. Character A is assassinated without any witnesses and their body is covered up. Less than an hour later, without having gone looking for Character A or hearing from the assassins, Character B knows Character A was assassinated.
- Characters not having knowledge of something they were either told or should know. Character A is a general who doesn’t know the troop strength of their own army OR Character A is told a murderer’s calling card is a white feather, but for most of the climax can’t figure out who’s leaving white feathers at the crime scene.
- Characters avoiding obvious solutions to their problems. Character A is told he was smuggled out of the palace via a back door when he was a child. Instead of looking for/using this back door, Character A leads his army in a risky frontal assault on the palace.
- The occurrence of an event that the rest of the work has deemed impossible. The rules of magic say you can’t bring people back to life. Character A brings someone back to life.
- Events not following the logical course of the story. Character A uses a shotgun after the author stated earlier that Character A was unarmed OR despite the fact the entire humans couldn’t kill the aliens in 2014, a group of 1000 human rebels destroy the entire alien culture with revamped technology from 2014 OR out of character (OOC) actions.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, the fixes should be simple enough:
- You need to keep track of which characters know what and when. I used Microsoft Excel for this. In the leftmost column, I have the character’s names. In the top row is a time/date of the story. In the columns to the right of the character’s name, I write what they have learned at each point in the story (and sometimes the source and their reaction). I do a lot of it in my mind, but for the more complex plots, I use Excel.
- Simple logic. A general should know a rough estimate of how many people are in their army. A character you described as unarmed cannot be wielding a shotgun moments later, unless they appeared to be unarmed to deceive someone or picked up the shotgun on the battlefield. And obey your damn magic rules.
- Problem solving. Sometimes when you’re writing, you can’t see the forest for the trees. A solution that may be obvious to some people isn’t obvious to you because you need to concentrate on character development, the plot, the setting, the Big Ending, and a million other things. The easiest thing to do is recruit a sharp-eyed beta reader. Some other solutions: making a document for your Big Problem and adding information about situation surrounding the Big Problem as you write them; and re-reading your entire document, just scanning for errors (NOT editing), preferably after not looking at it for +5 days.
Some of the fixes will be simple enough, such as switching references to “shooting” and “blasting” zombies to “stabbing” and “beheading” zombies. Some of them will be harder, like when you’ve written a climax in which a normally calm character goes insane and tries to kill the protagonist for no reason whatsoever. An entire climax or arc hinging on a plot hole can’t be easily fixed and I recommend looking in the plot and planning tags for basically starting from scratch.