Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Tidbits

Superman and the Saint

So a few weeks ago I talked about the need to spend time on your secondary characters, giving them real life and personality so that they become as relatable as your protagonists. Amusingly, in many of the comments writers said that they had the opposite struggle . . . they found their secondary characters more interesting to write about than their protagonists!

A fellow author this last week told me the same thing. She was talking about how she had made the alternate-hero (the one who doesn't get the girl) more interesting than the hero, and now she needs to go back through and give her hero some flaws.

And that started me thinking.

What makes for an interesting character--be it hero, heroine, villain, or sidekick? A character who needs to grow. A character who has real internal struggles and flaws they have to surmount as they struggle toward their goals.

Yet many writers feel that a Hero needs to be Superman and a Heroine needs to be a saint. Oh, sometimes they'll give them some little cursory flaws . . . your hero might be a little too devotedly passionate about the heroine, your heroine might be a little clumsy (shades of Edward and Bella, my friends?). But neither of these--unless taken to an extreme that effects the story on shattering levels--are really flaws enough to make for interesting characters.

An interesting character is one you as the writer can relate to. And you, my dear writer, are neither Superman nor a saint. Sorry! It's no wonder you find yourself more drawn to your villain or your less-saintly sidekicks.

So start giving those protagonists of yours some real, besetting flaws. Flaws that effect the story on a profound level. Flaws that you relate to, even if you wish you didn't. You'll find yourself much more drawn to your characters, much more eager to see them triumph!

Because suddenly their story has become your story.


Molly said...

Before I read this, as I was working on my NaNoWriMo story, I had made my main character have some flaws and someone else (definitely not a main character) have some great skills...and I almost thought about going back and changing that. But you're completely right, of course, everyone has flaws! I think I like how my character has some flaws, now that I've read this. :)

Clara said...

That is such a good favorite characters in books are the ones with the flaws.

Kessie said...

That's so true. In my first book, my hero has almost no flaws. Every draft of the book since, I've given him a few more. He's still not as messed up as his friends, though, who will eventually get their own books.

Man, if you want a flawed character, look at Howl of Howl's Moving Castle. Stuck up, vain, obsessed with his looks, a coward, a slither-outer--and yet he helps people and does nice things and winds up being the hero he tried so hard not to be. It's why we luffs him so much. :-)

Kyra-Luthien said...

Thanks, I made last year's NaNoWriMo character almost entirely flaw free!

I am going to go back and dish out a couple of un-attractive qualities to a couple of characters, just to make things interesting.

Thanks Anne :)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Kessie: Howl is a PERFECT example of what I'm talking about! Singularly flawed individual who makes an unforgettably loveable hero!

Victoria said...

Like so many other Friday Tidbits, I felt as if you wrote this specifically for my novel and me. Thank you so much for sharing, Anne Elisabeth!

Clara said...

Does anyone agree with me that Tom Hiddleston would make the perfect Howl?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Victoria:
I needed this!
This is exactly what was wrong with my heroine! Everybody I showed the story to told me there was something off, this was it.
She was too strong and perfect.
Anne Elisabeth Stangl, please never stop.

Rachel6 said...

For all you dear writers, here are a couple links to another writing blog that pretty much says the same thing:

There are one or two topics they discuss on this blog that I wouldn't recommend for all ages, but those can be spotted by their titles. The blog itself is as useful as Anne's, though less companionable!