Today, we’re going to talk about characters. All stories root for someone to stop being an a**hole. Maybe the person doesn’t realize they’re being an a**hole. Maybe they do. But at the heart of every story, we want the character to get their sh*t together. To overcome their basic internal garbage and rise above their circumstances and win.
But I didn’t really get into how you create the a**hole to begin with. Oops. Starting from scratch, from a blank page, how do you do that?
Give the Character a Flaw
Maybe they shoot first, ask questions later. Maybe they don’t know how to talk to women. Maybe they talk to too many women. Maybe they litter. Maybe they don’t know how to take a joke. A friend of mine has a character with a bat phobia living in vampire-laden Victorian London. Whatever the flaw is, make it obvious in the first chapter. Give the character a flaw.
Give ’Em Goals and Motivations
Give them a goal. Everyone wants something. What does this character want? Write it down. Figure out why they want that thing. The person who wants a girlfriend because he is lonely is much different than the person who wants a girlfriend so he can show up his big brother with how awesome he is. So figure out what the character wants and why.
Figure Out How to Save the Character
Figure out how the character will get what they want. And how the character will overcome their flaw. Or succeed despite it. Now you have the bones of a fantastic story.
Make the Character Quirky
Make the character likable. Give them a quirk, something they do out of habit, out of anxiety, out of sheer cussedness. Tom might unconsciously whistle “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” whenever he gets nervous. Simone might only wear black clothes. What are the consequences of the quirk? Does Tom get put on suspension for whistling during an important meeting at work? Does Simone find herself hopelessly attracted to someone who writes her off as depressed?
When you give a character flaws, quirks, goals, and motivations, you’re making them real. They’re not two dimensional anymore. Remember, anything you don’t specify the reader can fill in (and they will).
Writing good characters doesn’t have to be a chore. When you have these qualities nailed down, you’re on your way to creating memorable people. Remember these tricks, and above all, save that a**hole!
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