Hey'a readers/writers/random people! There was an overwhelming response to my last post, for which I am very thankful, and one of the topics that started being discussed was characters. What makes a good hero, villains, and where characters come from. Seeing as how this is a very good topic I thought I'd blog on it.
All stories, fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or otherwise, are about characters. Stories are about who characters are, what they want, and how they get or do not get what they want. Every story. And as characters are the most central part of any story, they are likewise the most important part of writing a story.
So what makes a good hero? There have been all types that have had success--underdogs, super-humans, average people, and probably more. What kind of traits make characters believable, and lovable?
My favorite characters and stories involve things that should never happen. Like Frodo Baggins, he's just a hobbit...there's no way he should have been able to waltz into Mount Doom and destroy the Ring. But he did.
I guess my favorite characters are the underdogs faced with impossible tasks.
And why does this resonate with us? Because we feel like them. We all feel like underdogs faced with impossible tasks at some point in our lives. And through faith in something stronger we overcome these impossibilities. These are the stories that stick with us, and the characters as well.
Here's my list of most common traits for a hero;
But what if you can't write like this? What if you aren't that creative (like most writers)?
Basically what I'm asking is where do you get your characters from?
Mine, in TSOF, typically come from combining characteristics of real life friends. My current project, as with most first projects, has a main character much like myself and supporting characters much like my friends. But the thing is, no one wants to read an allegory of your life--unless its really interesting. Your characters need to be new, and yet real.
This is a difficult thing to balance. Creating entirely new people. People with histories, goals, dreams, hopes, pains, weaknesses, etc.
I find it easiest to steal from real life. Write a character with a history similar to your own, or someone you know. Snag personalities from multiple persons and make this person its own. And after the personality and story is set, the goals and dreams easily fall in line.
You following me? Steal from real life. Throw people together and make a new person. Or perhaps make characters symbolic of a trait--love (make a person who's life is centered around love), loyalty (make a Sam Gamgee character), and more.
So once you have your hero, you need to pit him/her against someone. A villain.
So what makes a good villain? Villains, honestly, are many people's favorite characters. They can define a story. You can have a perfect main character, and write such a bad villain that your story will be awful.
This is a skill hard for many people. Your villains need to be just as real as your hero, perhaps even more so. They need believable motives, readers in fact do need to identify with the bad guys. Because it adds so much more depth to the story. Some of the best stories are the ones where the reader is caught between the two sides--good and evil. Loving the villain but knowing he is evil. That's the goal. Make the reader feel for the villain, or at least understand him. You don't need to write a lovable villain. But write one that makes sense.
For example, a bad story would have a villain that wants to kill the main character...simply to kill the main character. There is no purpose in killing him. He just wants to kill him.
That's a bad character. The villain needs motives, just as much as a hero.
Now, it is commonly misunderstood that villains need to be wholly evil, detestable, ugly, dressed in black, etc etc. You know the picture. Think up the most cliche villain. That's what I'm talking about.
Instead of following this trend, write a seemingly good villain, enchantingly evil, handsome, donning shinning robes. Give your reader the same feeling as the hero. Fearful, but enchanted.
Naturally this varies between stories. But there really aren't rules in writing characters--they just need to be real. Sometimes cliche's work, but not often.
Make a villain that's wretchedly evil. But make your readers like him.
Make a hero with motives your readers understand, and terrorize his life.
So, here's what I'd like to talk about. Do you agree, disagree with what I said? Do you want to hear more on any of this? How do you make up characters? What are the most important traits of a hero/villain?
If this goes well I'll do a series of posts on types of characters. Even if it doesn't I just might. I like studying that :)
So, what do you think?