Thursday, November 13, 2014

Spice it up

Ever have a hard time coming up with good/believable characters?
Has the bucket run dry on your do-good-er hero and truthfully, even you find your own characters dull and uninteresting?
Do you dream of creating a character that people can really relate to, but most importantly, fall in love with?
Here's the big secret to achieving this seemingly impossible feat...ready for it?....Got your pen and paper handy?...Here it is...give your character a flaw!

That's right, the key to the perfect character is to make them IMPERFECT!

As humans, imperfection is our middle name. Unless your character is superman, he should not have all his shiz together.
(Side note: Superman is actually my least favorite superhero for this very reason)


1) What to do if your character is dry...

A fun way to spice things up is to give them a weird obsession or weakness.

For example, say Jim is in a street fight and its playing out like a million other street fights; its boring and it's just not doing it for you.
How about you throw in a little history and weakness.

When Jim pulls his knife, he's reminded of the last man he stabbed; a good friend named Tom who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally Jim might be a little more hesitant about the knife, which could get him in some trouble.

Or say we're dealing with a Vampire named Nick.
Nick is hunting a human, but as he's following this person, they walk past a restaurant that cooks with strong garlic and Nick has some sorta allergic fit. The human then realizes it's being followed.
Dun Dun Dun!
Weaknesses are very important, even Achilles had his heel.

2) What to do if your character is too perfect...

So you have a superman when you were actually shooting for a regular Joe-blow who grows into somewhat of a hero.

A good remedy to counter all that Godlike perfection is to add a little of yourself into your character.
(Now before you get all offended, let me explain)

As I said before, humans are naturally imperfect, so we are our best examples.
Give the character some of your own flaws. 
What I like to do is ask myself these questions: "How would I solve this problem?", "How would I react?", "What would I think?".
By adding a piece of yourself, you breathe life into the character.

3) What to do with a textbook Villain...

Find yourself with a Villain who is so evil, it's almost textbook? Boring!
(Yes, you want a villain who can be feared, but why can't they also be loved by the reader?)

My favorite remedy is to throw in a "tell". What I mean by this is adding some sort of mannerism that will clue the reader into what is happening, or about to happen.

Example 1: Victor is an evil king who is overseeing a prisoner brought before the throne to plead his case. All of a sudden, he stands in a rage, having heard enough, and declares in a booming voice, "Off with his head!"

Sure, the picture is there, but the emotion is missing. I don't feel like I know Victor, therefore why should I sympathize with him or care about him at all? 
(Caring about a character is not a bad thing. Make a Villain that you Love to Hate.)

I'm going to write the scene again, and give Victor a "tell", along with more details.

Example 2: Victor sat rigidly in his throne, his dark eyes searing into the scraggly peasant at his feet as he begged for his life. It was all he could do to keep from lashing out at the pathetic wretch. 
However, when the man began to weep, a muscle in Victor's cheek twitched and his nostrils flared with anger. With an eerie grace, the king stood, bringing with him a crackling presence of rage. "I've heard enough...," he growled lowly. "Off with his head."

Ok, so I added two "tells" (twitch and nostril flare). Those moves weren't very big as opposed to the rest of the scene, but if I mention the muscle twitch or nostril flare any other time in the story, the reader will know that Victor is pissed and is probably going to kill someone!

Here's some examples of "tells": 
Nervous character always rubs a hand on the back of his neck. 
Liar who wont make eye contact. 
Worrisome character who bites their lip. 
Angry characters flared nostrils. 
A fidget, a twitch, hard swallow, biting nails, stuttering, 
constantly cracking knuckles or neck, trembling lip...and much more.

(Basically something someone does subconsciously, that the reader can catch.) 
I wouldn't give your character too many tells; maybe two that you can use throughout the story. 

4) Don't cheat on the details...

Sure, writing descriptive scenes may take a bit longer, but the life of a book can be in the details.

Just because you may picture something in your mind, doesn't mean that the reader always can. Therefore, it is your job to paint them a mental picture that will make them feel as though they are in the book, watching the scene play out.

Take the examples 1 & 2 that I used for the previous tip about the King. Example 2 was much more interesting to read; I only really added a few extra sentences.

Same goes for your characters. You can describe them as "just an average old man", or "an old man with jowls that resembled that of a bulldogs".
A few extra words can make all the difference. Don't be afraid to break your character down for your reader. (It doesn't all have to be in one spot in the book).

Now, tread carefully; too much detail is almost just as bad as not enough. You can explain something to death if you have too much info. Too much to take in can practically choke the reader to death.

Sum up items that aren't as important. For example, when describing the room, the reader doesn't need to know the pattern of the drapes or that they were imported from Bali, unless that is going to be brought up later or is important to your character.

Best way to know if you've written too much detail is to let someone else read your story.

That's all the tips I have for you guys, but don't forget, your characters are among the most important aspects of your story!
Spice them up!

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