This week: Character Mistakes & MotivationsEdited by: Jay
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Character Mistakes & Motivations
How do you demonstrate character growth? One way is through your characters' mistakes.
So in our household's effort to drain every watchable program from our Netflix account, we've tried to be sparing with the shows we really really like so that we don't scarf up the entire thing in one sitting. We aren't always successful at this (Looking at you, most recent season of Castlevania...)
ANYWAY! So my partner and I are currently watching the final season of the She-Ra reboot. (It's adorable, I'm an 80s kid, and the character writing is really fun, I apologize for nothing.) A thing that I'm noticing in the last season of the show is how the characters' mistakes of prior seasons are adeptly woven together to really highlight the growth and change of each character throughout the series. Even the heroes have big, meaningful flaws and they make mistakes, and the consequences for those mistakes last beyond the scope of a single episode, which is surprisingly deep for a kids' show.
The important thing, for any such character mistakes to be important, is for the mistake to be a key part of the character's personality. It's easy if you are working with a very flawed character or a villain; there are obvious flaws to say, jealousy or rage or coldheartedness; any of those things we can easily plot out some inherent mistakes in a character's way of thinking. Ditto that for bold characteristics--that whole thing with brave, bold and purehearted characters wanting to see the good in everyone and believing that might will prevail.
It's trickier when you are working with more intricate characters, especially in the space of a short story, but one of the oldest stories in the book is "someone makes a mistake, learns from it, and changes for the better (or the worse)." It stands to reason that demonstrating a character's development through their mistakes, and how they try to fix them, works well for modeling very authentic feelings even in a fantastical setting or in the narrow span of a few thousand words.
Some writers have difficulties having their characters make obvious mistakes. It makes sense! No one wants to screw up at something and it can be hard to put yourself in that place as a writer, of exploring the difficult feelings of, say, revealing a good friend's dark secrets, or admitting that you didn't know something you thought you did. (It can be cathartic to write characters who mess up a lot, though. Ask me how I know!)
Let your characters grow, change, make mistakes, and work to fix them, or at least to mitigate the damage done. You might be surprised at how effective this is as a story seed, the next time you find yourself stuck for "what happens next."
Until next time,
Take care and Write on!
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Feedback from last month: "Creativity in Chaos"
Write 2 Publish 2020 writes:
*wailing*I need accountability! I can waste hours playing a game on my phone or going down the rabbit hole of FB videos and YouTube. I have only rewritten 3 chapters.
Here's hoping it's four by now!! In all seriousness, it's a very hard time to stay accountable to yourself so I'd be pretty forgiving of those Youtube rabbit holes if I was you--but I also know what it's like to need some pressure to finish work!
Readers, do you have a system of motivation you can suggest for someone who needs help motivating to revise? I'd love to hear your suggestions!
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