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Nobody Likes Your (Perfect) Character.

Many components go into making a story (any story, any length, and any topic). One of the hardest and most important things to do is get a character that’s going to interest your reader and/or guide them through your story. Perhaps that difficulty is why it’s not always a given that the characters hit the mark.

Here are some pitfalls to watch out for.

DEPRESSED Characters

These characters are actually interesting in real life, but bad in print. Yes, some people can write them well, but the problem lies in the fact that no one wants to spend 300 pages listening to someone whine constantly. The other problem with these characters is that they end up being snarky (which might be good for a cheap laugh) but ultimately make them look like assholes. 🙁

If you must write a depressed character, your best bet is not to call him/her depressed, but rather keep the character in motion. Don’t spend a great length of time letting them whine. Whine once per chapter (if you must) then move on.

PERFECT Life

Maybe you don’t want people to relate to your characters right away, but I suspect, like most authors, you do. Giving a character a perfect life distances them from the reader because NO ONE has a perfect life. They don’t need to be angry or constantly fighting with their family, but there needs to be SOME dent in the armor, or else when the conflict comes, not only might your reader be unsympathetic, but they might very well root for your character’s ruin. So if things are ‘going well’ for your character, okay, but know that the sympathy level for said character is dropping as the reader continues.

TOO STUPID TO LIVE Characters

Too stupid to live (TSTL) characters are the ones who CAUSE great disasters to come their way. They steal something or hurt someone and something bad happens to them because of it. Now. This sounds like a great premise (a chance for redemption). Keyword: SOUNDS. No one likes liars and thieves. If that character MUST be that way, then they either need to get away with it, or feel bad before getting caught. Characters that go to their own ruin “had it coming” and seldom gets a pat on the back when things fall apart because of their idiotic choices.

DAMAGED Goods

This can come in many forms and it can be deep and moving. Or it can get tired and old…FAST. The problem with damaged goods is that they have to be trying to get better. If they lay down and wallow in it, some times readers start feeling compelled to just leave them there. Don’t have your character call him/herself a loser over and over again. However he/she feels is the way we the reader are going to feel while it’s okay to milk that sympathy at first, in time, the broken record will become tiresome.

MODELS With Flawless Bodies

Now, it’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a character who is well put together. Even in movies we want to have a good looking character. But keep in mind that it won’t always give you the result you want. When too much focus is put on the characters looks again and again, couple that with many other ‘positives’ without a flaw in sight, and it becomes forced and hard to read. When the characters are perfect, there’s less of a connection. It’s in our nature to mistrust all that looks perfect. Putting blemishes and flaws gives a character more…character.

 

Whatever you do with your characters, just remember that no one is going to automatically LIKE them or care about them in chapter 1. Don’t assume that everyone’s going to fall as madly in love the confident model you’ve just sculpted as you did.

Balance them out and make them human.