Hello, fellow campaigners of the writing world! Time has passed way too quickly for my liking so I didn’t have time to think of a subject to write about. So, I’ve always been passionate about the concept and importance of media characters. As a writer, this might be obvious, but characters are so crucial to pop culture nowadays.
As a media consumer, characters make up almost every medium to tell a story and we see them all the time. I mean, video games have characters for you to play as, movies have characters you love to see, and books have characters that you try to visualize and get into their heads. There is something so beautiful as someone creating a persona who will then tell a story.
But it can get dicey pretty quickly.
One of my biggest personal pet peeves is horribly written or crafted characters. I like depth. I like arcs. I like for characters to feel real. There needs to be a purpose. When I read a story, I’m here to experience life or adventure through the eyes of someone.
I want to see struggles. I want to see their wants and needs stripped from them. I want to see them at their worst.
Why? “That seems quite morbid,” you might say.
Yeah, I have a hate/love relationship with watching characters go through hard times, BUT I find that when characters reach this point, they have three options: to rise up or wallow in their pity or go down a worse path. And all of these are interesting to me. We, as humans, have to make these decisions all the time when things don’t go our way. We are easily blinded by our motives and beliefs and sometimes when things are stripped from us, what’s left can be surprising. We make successes, we make mistakes, and it’s what we do with the good or bad consequences that craft a great character arc.
And there are a few components that represent great characters: accessible, motivated, and responsible. Or at least they are things that I find to create great characters.
They are relatable. You can at least see where they are coming from.
I could read a book about a girl getting illegal superpowers and turning herself in (“Ignite”, Jenna Terese), and I cannot relate to having powers. Like, that’d be cool, but I don’t have superpowers. But the idea and the situation the character is thrust into is inciting anxiety and fear which causes a reaction that readers can relate to.
I could also read a book about a Scottish princess who is held captive by her stepmother, finding a chance to escape” (“Dìlseachd – A Stolen Crown,” Cheyenne van Langevelde). I cannot relate to that. I have a great family life, but how the author pulls you into the character’s head/emotions caused by situations and setting, makes the character relatable.
I want to see characters striving for something. There needs to be tension! Character vs. world, vs. character, vs. time, etc.
One of my favorite reads last year was “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne. There was so much at stake! Time was ticking away, there was sabotage, miscommunication, and all the fun tension-inducing plot thickeners. And the characters all had different motivations that kept the story going. And it was so ingrained in the story that the stress of the character vs. time dynamic was felt! I felt that I was fighting against time with them.
Also, I read the first two autobiographical novellas of the “Wanted: A Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Suck” series by Natasha Sapienza and it’s filled with character motivation. It’s all in the title. The author brings you into her adolescent years and the premise of the series is her want to find “the One”, a.k.a her future husband. And you are pining for it with her as she struggles through different relationships, trying to fill the hole in her heart. The right motivation is there, but she was going through all the wrong steps to get there! Trying to take it into her own hands.
And Natasha’s book series, “Wanted: A Boyfriend Who Doesn’t Suck,” actually are a great example of responsibility. Her character, making many mistakes, has to learn from them and TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. And that’s what makes it so beautiful to me. And because it’s an autobiography in a way (but fictionized), it feels real.
One of my least favorite things is when a character can do something wrong and the author makes it seem good, or the whole cast of characters will not hold the main character responsible. I hate it. That’s so unrealistic and is quite close to Mary-Sueism.
How I Try To Write Characters
My goal in my books is to create characters that are vastly different from each other not just because but to make a point. We are not perfect, so creating flawed characters is what helps me tell a story of redemption, sacrifice, or whatever thing a character must do that is so against who they are but it is the right thing to do.
For example, “the Arrogance of Elegance” is a book from the perspective of a regency female who is so arrogant to think she is the only person who could marry her childhood friend. But she ends up lying to save face and is caught by Mr. Childhood Crush, and has to humble herself and all that jazz. Unreliable narrators are my favorite.
And in “the Hope of Hattie Phelan,” the POV is from an imbittered girl who is still dealing with the loss of her brother and mother and then dealing with moving away from her father which causes her to grow more bitter. And she has to deal with all of this with her mother’s side of the family she has never met.
In my upcoming book “Uncitizen’s Ship,” the first POV is quite a contented young girl but her planet is destroyed and she gets caught up in some political drama, escaping all law and she is just along for the ride. She is learning who to trust and must try to stand up for herself more and more. The second POV is a war-worn middle-aged doctor who has to get some people to safety but is learning to deal with his past regrets and stuff. He is less developed because I’ve only just started working on his plot and character arc, so it’s not set in stone yet.
So, this is just the tip of the iceberg of my “good characters rant,” but I wanted to share with you my perspective on the subject.
So, characters with motivations, accessibility, and responsibility are what I’m looking for when reading books.
What do you look for in characters?
Salutations, fellow adventurers!