It has been a fun two weeks. I hope you had as good of a time as I had. The first week of vacation from GTW was all work to prepare my talks for the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop. The second week was attending the One Year Adventure Novel Summer Workshop.
I had so much fun.
Here is a small montage of the dozens of pictures I took or was tagged in last week. And, yes. I did, indeed, find both a medieval helmet and a TARDIS.
Since I worked so very hard on some of my OYAN talks, I decided to break down two of them for you here on Go Teen Writers. The other two I've done here before. So today I'm going to start a series on Creating Compelling Characters. And it will run for several weeks. It's been very helpful for me as I work on my new fantasy series. I hope that you will find it helpful too. And if you were at OYAN and heard my talk, let me know in the comments how you are coming along with your characters.
So, here we go. Hold on to your fezzes.
Every Character Needs…
(And when I say "every," I mean every important character. You know who they are.)
1. To be unique
All of your characters want to be unique in your story. They don't want to be a carbon copy of Hermione Granger or Augustus Waters, despite how awesome both those characters are. Give each of your characters a distinct personality and voice.
2. To have a purpose
Each of your characters must have a purpose in their lives and in your story. If they have no purpose, they are simply taking up space. Their purpose could be big, small, or even to fool the reader into thinking they are important when they are not. Make them matter to the reader.
3. For things to get uncomfortable (conflict)
Every character needs to be part of the conflict. They could be causing conflict, dealing with conflict, or helping someone through the conflict. If there is no conflict for a character, that character is likely boring. And boring characters are not a good thing.
4. To change or grow during the course of the story
Every character should have some fault, fear, or lie to overcome in the story. Readers want to root for your characters. We want to see them come up against that "one thing" and be forced to make a choice. To grow or change in some way.
Take The Fellowship of the Ring, for example. Each are unique.
Gandalf is the only wizard.
Legolas is the only elf.
Gimli is the only dwarf.
There are two men--Aragorn and Boromir--but they have very different personalities and roles.
And there are four hobbits, but they, too, are each unique in their own way.
They each have a purpose in the story. Life gets very uncomfortable for all of them. And they all grow, even Boromir, in the end.
Fight the stereotype.
It's so easy to accidentally make some of your characters stereotypical. It happens to me all the time. Arianna Sloan in the Mission League books was a clone of Hermione Granger. And they still have similarities. But I finally got rid of the British accent, which helped. So, watch out for stereotypes: the grey-haired wizard, the orphaned child, the axe-wielding dwarf, the bad guy father, the stoic elf... Turn the stereotype on its head. Build flesh and blood people, who have depth and are unique.
Remember, everyone is the star.
In the Diary of a Wimpy Kid story, Greg Heffley might be the protagonist, but every character who walks onto the stage is living as the star of his or her own story. And that's how it should be. Every character has a life of his or her own to live. And just because they aren't in the story for a while, shouldn't mean they are sitting around waiting for the hero to need them. No! They've got things to do! Think about Rowley Jefferson, Fregley, and Patty Farrell. How many times does Greg come upon them and find them in the middle of their own enthralling plans?
And how about Neville Longbottom in The Deathly Hallows? Harry, Ron, and Hermione are off looking for horcruxes, and when their search leads them back to Hogwarts, what do they discover? That Neville has taken leadership of Dumbledore's Army and is ready to fight. Now, who saw that one coming? Good thing Neville had a life of his own, eh?
Next week I'll show you my new Character Chart and walk you through how I've been using it as I work on my new fantasy series. But for today, ask yourself if you can answer those four needs about your characters. Are each of your important characters unique? Do they each have a purpose? Do they deal with conflict? And do they star in their own show? Also, have you fought the stereotype? Have you made everyone the star of his or her own show? In which of these areas do you do well? Which do you struggle with? Feel free to share in the comments.