No, I’m not talking about past relationships, though some of the guys I’ve dated wind up in my books. I’m sure you have done the same. I’m talking about characters in our books. Or any books for that matter. However, as authors/writers, we think of our own characters first.
When plotting the characters for our books, we have our favorites. Male or female. We immediately connect to that character. All others support that one character.
However, a reader may not like your beloved character.
What? It’s true. Why wouldn’t they love, so and so? Who wouldn’t love her/him? She/he is a dog/cat lover, volunteers at the premie unit at the hospital, recycles, drives an eco-friendly vehicle. What’s not to like?
Right now I have nothing to go on but the qualities listed. So, I assume this character is a nice person. She or he enjoys helping others. Yet as I read reviews, read the story on my own, the character is only shown through those qualities.
She is the, eh, I can leave ’em character. Why? Because her growth or setback is minuscule. She may come out a winner in the end, but she does nothing memorable, endear me, or push me away.
This type of character does not evoke strong emotions. Unless, of course, it’s anger. Horror movies and the lead character comes to mind. Anyone with the sense of a sloth knows what not to do, yet there he goes running into the woods, hides in the bathroom void or windows and far away from an exit. Why? If you don’t have the so-so character, the story does not move along. That’s a point for another day, but this type of character should never be your main character or even one of your two main characters.
As I begin my series on characterization, I’ll be looking at a number of character types we know from books and movies to aid me in demonstrating great characterization.
So let’s begin.
Choose three characters. Movie or book. Or both. Think of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Game of Thrones. For my demonstration, I chose, Gone With the Wind. I’ve read the novel and seen the movie. I’m a classic movie buff. The characterization in both the book and movie were almost identical.
The three main characters are Scarlet O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes. There are actually four, Melanie Wilkes, but this instance, I’m leaving her out.
Scarlet is your love ’em/hate ’em character. Rhett Butler is the love ’em character. That leaves Ashley Wilkes as the leave ’em character. Note because I have three main characters introducing the eh, leave ’em character as a main character means, in this case, he’s the foil for the other two. If your story only has two then this exercise will aid you in ridding your character of humdrum qualities.
Now that you have your characters study them. Then write a short list, less than ten, preferably no more than five characteristics they embody. Why did you choose those qualities? What made you decide to use that book or movie? Add the plot and your reason for liking that particular book or movie.
I’ll leave you with my reason. For years, Gone With the Wind held the highest box office money maker in Hollywood. It may still if inflation is added into the mix. Hollywood purchased the rights to the novel as they have continued to do so with books like I mentioned above. And here’s our latest Hollywood sensation. Fifty Shades of Grey. Gone With The Wind embodies America’s struggles of civil warfare. It captured, through two families, the fall and rise of not only a nation but the people trying to put their lives back together after horrendous separation, personally, economically, patriotically.
Next week’s post will begin with the qualities of my characters, their growth, setbacks, stagnation. I encourage you to do the same this week for your characters.
You will be one step closer in developing characters that capture your audience’s heart.