Two things you can often catch me talking about are theme and characters–the backbone of story.
If you think about it, you’ve read and seen a million characters in your life so far, most of who have come and gone. But if you’re like me, there are a few who’ve engaged you at such a deep level they’ve stayed with you throughout the years. Characters you can quote or reference on a daily basis. So, what did the writer do to bring those guys to life, that the other writer’s missed?
When it comes to characters there are three things I always stress;
Somebody once said, “Set yourself on fire with passion & people will come for miles to watch you burn.” Thanks somebody, cause you are spot on.
It doesn’t matter if your character is passionate about taking over the world, or brass doorknobs. Indifferent, aloof, aimless characters simply don’t engage us. But passion surfaces through character expression (emotion) and even if it’s something mundane to us, we connect through that personal expression.
Contrary to what a few people would have you think, NOBODY is perfect… in fact, most of us are FAR from it. Characters without flaws come across as artificial and on the flip side, characters with exposed flaws suddenly become much more relatable. Characters that conquer challenges despite these flaws grab our attention and become much more engaging.
And of course, structurally speaking character flaws are absolutely central to developing proper character arcs–showing the transformation of a character relative to the theme over the course of the story.
3) DISTINCT VOICE
We all know you should be able to recognize which character is speaking by the dialogue alone… writing 101. But so often this simple technique is completely overlooked.
Case in point, I was a big SG-1 tv series fan. But at some point in the series I realized every single character had the same dry, sarcastic humor. Literally you could swap any of the characters one-line jokes and nobody would have sounded out of character.
If swapping dialogue between characters doesn’t make them sound out of character–Danger Will Robinson, Danger!
People are different, I have friends that talk like drunken sailors, some who gasp at foul language, some that whine and complain about everything, others than never complain about anything, some that can’t go a sentence without quoting a movie or saying some stupid pop culture phrase and others that talk more with their body language than their mouths.
When characters have a distinct voice we are much more likely to remember them for who they are.
Keep those 3 character tips in mind and someday I might be quoting one of your characters!▪
About the Author —
Nick Macari is a full-time freelance story consultant, developmental editor and writer, working primarily in the independent gaming and comic markets. His first published comic appeared on shelves via Diamond in the late 90’s. Today you can find his comic work on comixology, amazon and in select stores around the U.S. Visit NickMacari.com for social media contacts and news on his latest releases.
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