How many times have you been part of a group or team where there is at least one person who has to be a stickler for keeping things on track? They correct you if they feel you’re wrong, and/or make sure everything is done right. I think it’s a rule of life that every group has to have someone like this in their life in order to keep everyone on track whether it’s their job or not (I’m laughing here, because I know people like this). These people can (but not always) cause tension in your story. So if you want to spice things up a bit, included one of these types of characters within your story.
Have you ever read a book, and you liked the characters so much that you didn’t want the book to end? Oh yes, I’ve been down that road myself. That means the author did their job of creating characters that stand out and touch your heart. But, how did they do that?
- Their characters displayed emotion to the point that the reader ‘felt’ right along with them.
- The character displayed a habit or two. This personalizes the character, makes them human.
- The character was relatable. We as a reader could identify with that character. We may have understood what they were experiencing. If not, then we could at least feel for them and/or root for them.
- The dialogue sounded real and not mechanical or robotic. Maybe they made you laugh or cry.
These are just some of the elements a writer uses in order to bring a richness to their characters. Take your time developing them. Observe people around you and jot down notes of things you see or hear them say or do.
Below is a list of character flaws you might find helpful when creating characters for your story. It always helps to consult a reference when the mind goes blank and you can’t think of enough possible ideas. My article I published on January 18, 2021 called Character Flaws goes into more detail about this topic.
- user of others
Have you ever finished reading a book of fiction and were disappointed it ended? And was part of that disappointment because you were going to miss the characters? You actually liked the characters so much you didn’t want the story to end. You enjoyed your time with them. Why do you think you liked them so much?
The answer is very simple. The author did a fantastic job creating them. But how were they able to be that effective in their creation? It lies in the attention to detail. It goes beyond physical appearance. Go deep within your characters, their minds: how they think, feel, react to certain things, mannerisms. Study other people around you and make notes in a journal. What do you like and dislike about them? Make a list of habits and choose some for your character to have.
Also, consistency is a huge key to creating believable characters. Don’t have them be unafraid of spiders in one chapter and afraid of them in the next. Don’t give them one habit in the first part of the book and it not be their habit in another part of the book. That will only serve to frustrate the reader, and they’ll put the book/story down.
You won’t know if your readers will like your characters or not, but if you do your job and pay attention to detail, the chances of them having such an impact on the reader will go up.
As a kid people always told me how quiet I was (I still am). It surprised me (and still does) that some have a problem with that. The truth is, being quiet is part of my personality. If there is something to say, I’ll say it. I’m not the only quiet human. There are others. But there are times when I’m not. I like to be goofy and joke around, just not all the time.
What I’ve noticed though, after my dad pointed this out, when I am quiet, I am observing other people. How they talk, their mannerisms, their physical attributes, their speech patterns, everything; I take in everything. Here again, that’s how I have always been. Does this mean I observe everything around me? No. LOL. My husband is good at that. We compliment each other in that way.
If you are creating characters, be mindful of them (their mannerisms, physical attributes, language, etc.). Observe other people and write down what you observe in a character journal so you can use that information later when creating a scene/chapter in your story/novel. Or if you’re in the process of creating a character, those observations can come in handy.
Have you ever wondered what a story/movie would be like if there were no clashing forces going against the main character? It would be boring to the point there would be no story. Not really anyway. Believe it or not villains create that extra zing of emotion for the reader/viewer to the point we sometimes feel as though we’re in the story/movie.
I finished reading a book a few days ago that had me talking back to the characters, and I mean saying things like, “Really? Don’t you see it has nothing to do with terrorism?” At one point I said, “Oh my gosh, this author.” My husband asked, “What?” To which I responded with, “The author drug this out way to much.” Actually, the author did his job, and he did it well. The villains were smug, very smug, and they thought they had everything going the way they wanted it to. Well, they did. The reader (this reader) wanted them to get what was coming to them (and they did eventually). That folks is story, suspense, emotion building writing.
So remember….when you are creating your villains, make sure to give them lots of tender loving care. You want them to connect with the reader too.
The book I spoke of above is linked below just in case you might want to read it. It’s book 5 in the Alton Blackwell Files series by Steven F. Freeman.
This type of conflict is between a character and their inner self. Don’t we go through this type of struggle on a regular basis?
1. Lack of self-confidence
2. The feeling of guilt when you do something against what you normally would do.
3. Love conflict: When you hurt someone you love.
4. The struggle of having to do something you don’t want to do but have to do. A great example of this is in Lord of the Rings when Frodo struggles with his destiny of having to destroy the ring.
Other Movie Examples of Man vs. Self
1. Buzz Lightyear in the first Toy Story movie. He’s a toy but doesn’t realize he’s a toy.
2. In the movie UP, Carl Fedricksen the grumpy old man is cynical and struggles with the cynicism that has encompassed him and the adventurous spirit he once was.
3. Tangled. Rapunzel struggles with wanting to stay in the tower or defy her mother and venture outside and leave the tower.
Person vs Technology
This type of conflict is where a person(s) go up against the perilous effects of technology moving in a forward direction. Someone had a great idea that sounded great at the time, but when the idea was tried out or an experiment done, something went very wrong. A classic tale that depicts this is the book by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Some other examples are 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Giver, The Matrix… The list goes on.
What can you do to make your characters stand out as individuals? Well, there are quite a bit of strategies you can try, but two of the most popular ones to try are to give you characters habits and certain mannerisms. Think outside the box with this. Get creative. I say this because, one of the things you want to avoid is making your characters like everyone else.
Maybe you have a character who, when they are deep in thought, not only creases their brows together, but they also place a hand on their hip and scratch their cheek with the other at the same time. Then they lean on their other hip, place their opposite hand on that hip and scratch their other cheek with their other hand.
Yes, one would normally call this fidgeting, but it is very specific and the reader gets to see just how they fidget. The details of these movements causes this character to stand out. That’s what you want.
When you’re in a competition, you give it your all, everything you’ve got. You may be nervous at first before you start because you want to win. You don’t want to lose. Then your mom, dad, or friend says, “Just do your best. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do.” In your mind, losing is losing, not winning. But…..in your villains mind, losing is winning.
What do I mean by this? Remember in the previous post (Villains Part VI) I said villains take pleasure in the protagonist’s pain. Well, yes. If burning everything down so your main character will lose everything but gives your villain pleasure in that main character’s loss, then the destruction of all is worth it to them. Go for the gusto with your villain’s actions. Have your villain throw ‘fuel on the fire’ (so to speak) as many times as it takes to cause destruction.
Ultimately, what is the reason behind the importance of making a great evil villain? Readers who continue turning the pages of your story all the way through to the end.