five parts of any character
I think characters are one of the key parts of any story. One of the largest problems I think that new writers face is having good, solid, 3D characters. As such, here are some recommendations that might help anyone move in that direction.
Keep in mind however that this isn’t just for the hero of the story. This list applies just as much to the villain as the hero, if not more so, because villains are harder to understand. It’s easy to understand why someone would want to save the world from being taken over but a lot harder to convince the reader why the world is being taken over in the first place.
1. Appearance. This is more of a technicality than a mandate, but having a good clue about what your character looks like will save you a lot of headache in the end, when you start editing and find that on page one, she has brown eyes, page five blue/green eyes, page seven brown eyes again and then on page fifteen she has the gray, stormy eyes that melt the heart of her boyfriend or whatever.
2. Interests. In general, what does he/she like? This can play into what they do what they do but sometimes it might just be an aspect of what they miss now that his/her life has been ruined by the author. Everyone likes doing something, even if it is just checking facebook and playing farmville.
3. love. I know, you’re not writing a love story. and since I myself have sworn off love stories this seems an ironic one to include. However, I’m not just talking about boyfriend/girlfriend kind of love. I’m talking about maybe the relationship that the said character has with his/her parents. Or maybe it’s a sibling. This can be a powerful motivator both to do things and to not do things. But having a brother that you haven’t heard about until page 90 being kidnapped and the hero decides, “Oh, you know, I think I’ll turn myself into the bad guy just because he’s such a great brother,” seems a lot weaker than a brother exchange when the kidnapped brother has been a support, someone who’s been sending him money, and someone who hid him from the police on page 30. Know who your character cares about and, if needed, why (or why not.).
4. Motivation. Take note: this is a big one for the villain. However, almost everyone has motivation to do something. Thing about yourself. Why do you go to work in the morning? Having a character that gets swept along willy-nilly seems weak and like they are pathetic. Now, maybe that is an attribute you want in a character because you’ll eventually work it out of him/her, but be on guard for it. Know why your character does what they do.
5. Weakness. What can’t they do? Not everyone, or very few people at least, are perfect in everything they do. And what I am discovering very quickly is that everything takes lots and lots of practice. It’s very easy to create perfect characters that don’t ever have a problem but everyone has a problem. Everyone either gets annoyed, frustrated, angry or weak-kneed. Try to have a clue about what that is before writing, so you don’t have to edit it back in later.
villains and antagonists
When I first began writing for real, I wrote a story called Hope. Originally, in the story, these aliens invaded earth, basically enslaved the people in the sense that they had to pay really high taxes and if they did anything wrong, they disappeared or are killed. Earth became very much of a farming community again with each community self supportive. Hope gets mixed up in a revolution between the humans and the aliens and much of it is about how that revolution starts and ends.
I posted this on an online writers group, because they said let’s post our current stories, and I got an interesting comment back. Don’t make the aliens faceless.
See, it’s really easy for aliens to walk around with much personality, evil little green creatures who are determined to bring down the doom and destruction of humans to Earth. But it is much better to know why the aliens function as they do. Why did they invade earth anyway and why do they think that they have the right to enslave humans?
Because of these comments, I created a character called Ka’yam. Ka’yam was one of the aliens who actually lived on EArth. For the reader, she was the eyes and ears of the other side, without using her to annoying build up the tension. She was awesome and easily become one of my more favorite characters in the story.
This advice that I was given years ago has been my guideline for villains since then. When I began writing something that would involve the villain taking over the government, I needed a reason why he wanted to do it and what he hoped to accomplish. He wasn’t just after it for the power or would handle things like the evil overlord list; it had be something more.
I think that this is something that a new writer needs to keep in mind. It is easy to make the villains faceless but we have a much better story if we don’t slip into the easy place of not knowing our antagonist.