Posts tagged ‘complexcharacters’

July 24th, 2010

Wannabe Writers #26

by Madeleine Rex

Wannabe Writers is a fantastic weekly meme hosted by Sarah at Confessions of the Un-Published!

Where I am in the Writing Process: I know it’s been forever since I made any progress…. but I wrote the second half of The Lemonites all this week! I think the most I wrote in one day was 8,000 words, and I can hardly believe it! I still have a scene to stick in that I accidentally skipped over, but I still believe what I have qualifies as a completed first draft!

The problem? Now I have to send it to betas. I’ve never really sent a book out for a very detailed critique, and never to more than one person. This is going to be quite an experience, and although I’m excited to make the book the best I can, it’s frightening to think that it could very well be crap no matter what. I didn’t plot this book very well. I have roughly two pages of a synopsis and that’s about it, but most things seemed to fall into place as I went…

I’m especially not pleased with the last 250 words or so, which I know is minor, but it’s certainly disconcerting. I’m going to let it sit and stew for a while, and hopefully my betas will have some input on how it could be/if it needs to be improved. Unless, of course, I’m struck by sudden inspiration and come up with something brilliant (I’m crossing my fingers).

Overall, though, writing my second book has been an incredible experience! Even if there are problems, it feels a lot more… bookish than my first. I know that, no matter whether this book is crap or not, I have improved. I’m grateful for all the practice I’ve gotten. Learning to sit down and simply start writing has always been the hardest thing for me. Once I’m into it, I’m enjoying myself, but the beginning of the day is difficult. I’m learning to work with this. Also, I’ve realized that I can write 2,000 words in an hour if I try, which will be a great thing when the school year starts and I have homework. (Ugh.)

I’m hoping The Lemonites can be whipped into shape, but it will always be something I’m proud of. Writing it was enjoyable, I love my characters, and I know that my writing is improving with every book. Which is exactly what I’m going for.

The Question this Week: Character Flaws. Okay, I know I need those to make my characters realistic, but I also know the flaws shouldn’t make the reader hate your character. So what are some good, hero-worthy, none-hateable, character flaws?

Well, this sorta kinda goes along with my post the other day: Can You Do That Again in Normal, Please? Not precisely, but if you’re struggling with characters, it might be a place to look.

I think the key is to ensure that the flaws are explained. Their anger issues are justified, their hatred for animals has a story to go along with it, etc. You don’t want to make them terribly flawed/mean (unless that’s what you’re going for), of course. My point is, however, that the flaws need to be within reason. Can I relate to the character? Can I sympathize? Or is he/she cruel for the sake of being cruel? You see my point.

If you’re not going for serious flaws of anger/hatred/etc, but simply little ones to make the character real, I think it’s important to have a wide range. Not to mention the fact that characters need to do things that are out of character every now and again. Say the character has problems giving people the benefit of the doubt – at some point, they should. It’s called character growth, and it means overcoming obstacles within the character. That problem of not giving people the benefit of the doubt has probably ruined some potential relationships. You could choose that as part of your character arc. By the end of the book, a character needs to have changed/realized something/become a better person/become a worse one. The point is: Something needs to have happened within them. Plot is not action, plot is story. Characters are story.

A few “none-hateable” flaws I can think of are:

  • As I said, a problem with giving people the benefit of the doubt
  • Distrusting
  • Simply confused – there’s something this character needs to understand to be happy/kind/a better person

And those are some big-ish ones. You can have flaws like saying “like” too much! Instead of thinking about how to make characters flawed, think about how to make them real. What have you struggled with? What are things you’re trying to overcome within yourself?

Just remember: Characters are people, too.

July 22nd, 2010

Can You Do That Again in Normal, Please?

by Madeleine Rex

Three dimensional characters do not have to be difficult to understand. There just needs to be a lot to understand. There has to be a depth to them that makes them human, not holograms or cartoon characters. The depth that we give characters by molding them into three dimensional people makes them real and full of meaning, but complex characters are a totally different species of being and require a different approach.

We don’t want all of our characters to be so complex that every word is full of hidden meaning. Giving the reader more work will not improve their experience (it won’t necessarily ruin it either, but…). Our book doesn’t need to be a puzzle. However, occasionally a story calls for a complex character, one whose words hold various meanings and can be interpreted differently. Whose actions don’t always correspond with the message we’ve previously sent the reader about their personality. Characters like these are both difficult to understand and create.

But they’re wonderful to read, particularly if they’re the POV character. Whether they are or not, they add suspense to the storyline simply by being relatively unpredictable. The reader will shiver in their seat when a situation presents itself that they think the CC (complex character) will handle badly – or worse, when they have no idea how the CC will react. In a pretty simply way, you’ve added an indispensable nugget of reader apprehension and eagerness that will help propel the story forward and keep the reader turning pages.

Even better is when the CC has not only a complex personality, but a confusing past. You’ve made a story out of a character. When a complex character seems to have a place in your book and you think you can handle the task of creating them, take the opportunity. There are infinite possibilities for a character that unravels as you go, and there’s a greater likelihood that a reader will be intrigued by the mystery that is the CC.

One complex character I’ve run into lately is Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. He is a fantastic example of someone who could keep me reading all on his own. I’m constantly surprised by what he does, his sudden change in mood, his odd tendencies, secretive past, and the weird reasons he lies. Every one of these things is enough to keep me reading. Add to them sarcastic and clever comments and a few adorable moments, and you have a character that both intrigues and entertains me. Cassie has done a great job with this CC.

As I said at the beginning, not all books call for a very complex character, but there should always be someone who is difficult to grasp onto. I think it’s important that there be a character who doesn’t quite make sense, isn’t predictable or well known, until the end. However, the complexity of plots very, so the complexity of characters must, too.

In the end, I think that complex characters lend a mystery to any sort of novel, and mystery is something that readers enjoy. Apprehension is fun to feel. If you can integrate suspense into your book, do it.

Do you have a CC in your book? Should you? If so, how complex should they be to fit within the parameters of the story?