As I sit at BFCAT (Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea, for the uninformed layman), waiting for my Saturday morning chocolate chip and marshmallow custom waffles, rather than bemoan a lack of relationship status on this particular weekend (hey, it’s better than what SOME people do. LOL.)…
Last time, I talked about what makes a character unique while thoroughly contributing to the plot, by using their backgrounds and personalities. While imperative to the story as a whole, it does not wholly make the story, well, the story. And just as that is true, a background, motives, and such like things, are not the only things that contribute to a character and their makeup. Today, I’m going to discuss both contrasting personalities and character flaws.
A flawed set of characters is entirely essential to nearly any good story, I cannot stress this enough. Maybe your character even has it all together on the outside– good looks, a great job, excellent grades, a pretty girlfriend, a seemingly perfect personality– intelligence and compassion blended together in wonderful harmony. This, readers, is a case of the “Too Flawless Character”. Sometimes, we all are guilty in writing these monstrosities into life. They are very flat, no character growth or development– highly unrealistic, in short. To fix this, you simply give them a flaw or two, and neatly blend it into their character, as well as the story. It’s like a stew– you need a bit of everything.
Let’s think for a moment about what kind of flaw we could give our “Too Flawless” character above. Maybe he’s actually a pathological liar, even with the best of intentions, and plays off that he has it better than is actually true. Maybe he’s a tad stuck on himself, and wants to make himself look good by lying and saying he donates to charity, when he really doesn’t have the time in his busy life. Maybe he has a great academic life, and seems like the perfect student, but at home, he’s a different person, and fights with his parents constantly over the most trivial things. See what you can do with just one character?
On the other hand, let’s say you make a character with about equal parts good and bad. This is great, but you might want more contrast– especially if the story demands it. For instance, in my “The Deceiver” blogging story, there’s Wren, who is intelligent and caring, but is at the same time distrustful of strangers and feels highly insecure about herself (but would never admit to it). Under ordinary circumstances, a character like this would most likely be pretty wary of the new character on the block who attempts to befriend her, right? Well, that’s where the contrast comes in. Wren’s in a kind of desperate situation– her two best friends are missing, and she is desperate to find them. Sure, she’s reluctant to break down any boundaries she keeps solidified between her and the rest of the world, but she’s going to have to do SOMETHING if she wants to find her peeps as badly as she does… Which leads to some compromise and thus, the events of the story that follow soon afterwards. That is contrast. Try writing a character that perhaps is full of themselves but maybe still has a soft side, and stick them in a situation that requires them to help someone else, someone that said character might normally consider “lower” than themselves; play around with the idea.
Until we meet again… (BTW, the waffles were quite tasty, for those wondering. 😉 )