written for writocracy.blogspot.com. It's meant to be confrontational. any thoughts?
|Once in a while, and by that I mean every second of every day, writers have taken it upon themselves to live vicariously through their characters.
This in itself isn’t a sin, as a breed we tend hide in musty dark corners, hunkering over our laptops, riddled with self doubt and screeching ‘coffee! Mooooooooore coffee!’ at whatever poor creature might be sharing our abode at the time, be it maid, spouse or mother. (to a writer in the throes of wrestling two obstreperous plot points together there probably isn't much of a difference.)
So naturally we live vicariously through our characters. Our characters occasionally see the sunlight, our character aren’t ripping their hair out of their scalps because of chapter six which just will not flow, and for the most part, our characters are infinitely more interesting than us.
So when it comes to giving our characters flaws to make them believable, some us take a different route.
Fine we say. Fine. My beautiful mystical warrior princess has a flaw, she’s relatable, she’s um...short. Yes she’s short. Very tiny, petite even, you can see how this has negatively impacted her life, and readers can relate can’t they?
No. They. Can. Not.
Being short is not a flaw, in fact it’s really a disguised compliment (she’s so petite.) I see what you did there.
And if you say she was so skinny, well then God help you, friend.
Another favourite is he had a fiery temper. Uh Huh. Now tell me, you didn’t maybe give him a fiery temper so that later when he’s angry you can describe how his eyes flashed, and his muscles bulged, and he left the little (short, poor thing, she’s short) heroine whimpering with desire?
The point is do not give your character compliments weakly disguised as compliments. It’s half hearted and weak and you should be categorically punished by being forced to write a two hundred page scene of nothing but dialogue between eighty two characters and you better show proper character development in all of them. No cheating.
The point is our characters are our children. I get it, we don’t want them to suffer imperfection, we want them to be gifted with everything we were not. We want to smother them with beauty, wit, riches and grace and the love and admiration of their peers.
But we’re creating androids. Not real people. Real people have insecurities, they can be petty or jealous, most of them aren’t astoundingly beautiful and every now and then they can be a real pain in the ass.
That’s what makes real people beautiful, engaging and entertaining. Those little sharp bits in their psyche, those little glitches in their personality. It’s the clumpy bits of Oreo in bland vanilla ice cream that makes an Oreo Mcflurry so good.
Trust your character enough to know that they can handle being ugly, or a little dumb. Make them strong enough to overcome their crippling social awkwardness or their secret eating disorder. Forge them into people who can and will shoulder their flaws with honesty and integrity and I think you may have the beginnings of a truly great character.
But that’s just my opinion.