I Don't Care Much for Him . . . But I Really Love Them!
Readers don't care about individual characters even half as much as they care about individual relationships.
I've known writers who spend all their focus and energy developing their protagonists. They'll pour their heart and soul into that one central character until that person shines off the page, full of distinct personality and desires and will . . .
And then they wonder why their books still fall flat.
The thing is, as interesting as a developed character might be, a character is never as interesting as a relationship. And I don't mean a romantic relationship. Or not solely a romantic relationship, anyway. By relationship, I mean the chemistry of any two characters played against each other.
But in order for this chemistry to work, all of your characters are going to need a certain amount of fleshing out. Your warrior-maiden heroine's sissy best friend? The relationship between her and the heroine needs to be full of unexpected twists! Maybe the sissy best friend demonstrates a moment of courage that shames the warrior-maiden heroine? What does that do to their relationship (and, subsequently, the drama of the story?) Your scampy hero's serious mentor? What if he secretly despises the scampy hero in his charge? What does that do to the drama of their relationship?
It's all about the play of characters against each other. Never focus all of your attention on any one character, no matter how much you love him/her.
So which relationships are working best in your story to drive the action and drama? Which relationships are a little stale? How can you liven up the tension between those two characters? Do tell . . . I'm always interested!
In one of my newer stories I have a complex relationship of three. The first is my main character who only recently has stopped being the head bad-guy (due to a betrayal) and is now taking refuge with the good guys.
The second person of interest is a sweet, beautiful, young woman full of energy and compassion.
And thirdly, we have her big brother, who's naturally very protective of her. So of course, the last he wants is for Mr. Former Villain to start taking an interest in his little sis.
The characters bounce off each other as the sister is constantly trying to keep the two young men from getting into a fight. Eventually, the two young men end up becoming firm friends, but not without a lot of suspicion and irritation along the way. Of course, their threesome friendship isn't the main concentration of the story, but it does help it along at several points.
I thought that this was a very fun Friday Tidbits, Anne, and it made me want to develop my different characters relationship more.
And in your stories, Anne, the first relationship that came to my mind was the unlikely comradeship of Eanrin and Lionheart: the cat and the cat-hater, the romantic poet, and the goofy jester. :)
My hero, a smart-mouth, cynical, arrogant jerk, paired with a young street rat who wants to be a healer and isn't as tough as he likes to think he is.
Hannah...do you allow people to read your stuff?? Because I LOVE the idea of a Big Bad Guy trying to reform!!
Anne, Eanrin and anybody. :)
Rachel: Your unlikely pair of characters sound like a lot of fun!
The story I mentioned above is fairly new, and it is on my "waiting list" to be written.
They're definitely fun to write!
Okay, now I'm curious. If that one is on your waiting list, what's your current work-in-progress, if you don't mind my nosiness? :)
I'm currently working on a novel about a country boy who saves an elf prince from demonic imprisonment, and then has to help him protect a sinless world.
My goal is to get published, so you might have to wait a couple years or more to read the stories. :(
I love the idea of your current story Hannah! Um, if its not too presumptious of me to ask, would you mind sharing it with us one day? I think that it would really interesting to read!
I like to work on short stories. Kind of like a series. Sometimes I combine it into a book, and I read them to my family. And for now, thats as far as my writing career will go. Too many essays from my professors at school!
My heroine is sort of tragic. She believes that she has to pay for her crimes, even after she has been forgiven for them. I was trying to explore the heartaches that guilt creates, with the person and how it affects all of her relationships with everyone around her.
Eszter: Your heroine sounds like she is a wonderful character to create dramatic stories! It sounds fascinating.
Unfortunately, my story is too big to share(like 300 pages!) and I do not yet have my own blog.
Look at all us cool writers! Hannah, I do hope you succeed! Your story sounds very intriguing!
Eszter, that's an interesting concept. How can we be forgiven and still feel guilty? Do you share your stories?
Seriously, girls, I just love seeing all these writerly comments going back and forth! SO pleased that my little blog is proving a place for talents such as yourselves to come and talk bookish! :) Keep up all that creativity . . . pretty soon I'll be writing all of you fan mail! :)
I have been needing this EXACT tidbit! Boy, did I need some help. Here's the deal. Handsome Scottish bookbinder/sailor, meet beautiful English girl. Both of you, please step onto this mysterious merchant ship with the Irish captain. Careful that no one other than ship members knows about-or captures-the mysterious contents of the velvet-lined box in the captain's cabin. If they do find out, let's just use that-and your romance-for the climactic scenes in the book. Seems easy, right? And it was...until HE came along. HE was just supposed to be Scottish sailor's best friend. But, through a series of captivating and sometimes spontaneous events, I began to realize HE might be more attractive than Scottish sailor!!! *gasp* Due to everything that I had planned out for my plot and my character's romance, this was NOT GOOD. Thank you SO MUCH for this tidbit, Anne Elisabeth...I now realize I don't need so much to make Scottish Sailor more attractive as I do make the romantic relationship prominent, heart-stirring, and beautiful.
In reading, many of my favorite stories--like Lord of the Rings, for example--I've always noticed the brother-relationship. When two characters have a bond like Sam and Frodo, you can't help but love them both for it.
In my own writing, then, I try to emphasize a more 'sibling' type of friendship between any character than a romantic one or just trying to have the character stand out on his/her own. My personal favorite written relationships are family ones: true siblings, or parent and child. They're harder to write, but come out so well in the end.
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