January 14th 2014 -
Writing Characters With Flaws
Nobody is perfect and if you want a character that readers find believable then make sure that you give them some flaws. Writing characters doesn’t or shouldn’t just apply to your antagonist or your villain. Your protagonist or primary character needs to have flaws also, where they have the edge on the opponent or villain is that they recognise their flaws and we come to sympathise with them flaws and all.
The protagonist in my noir series Lambeth Croak, is a mixed race female writer and researcher. She is underemployed in her profession and occasionally helps out her friend who runs a missing persons’ agency. She is supposed to help with research and document traces but the cases she becomes involved in often mean a lot more, which is why she is a reluctant private investigator.
My primary character’s name is Bev Stone, she is an edgy, no nonsense feminist with a Greta Garbo complex, i.e. she prefers to be left alone, life on the other hand has different ideas. Brought up by two Jamaican aunts Bev knows how to defend herself, except when it comes to her abusive, soon to be ex husband. Bev lives and works in Brixton but is essentially a middle class academic with no current students and a lack of money. One reviewer said that they wanted to know more about Bev, which pleased me considerably because that meant I’d made her, at least for that reader, believable – and believable people often have flaws.
Writing Character Sheets
You need to know yur character well, especially the protagonist, and the best way I have found of doing this is to have a character sheet or sheets. The sheet should not only be the character’s name, age, job and physical description, it should have background information or back story. You may or may not use some back story in your book but you need to have it in order to know how your character will react in certain circumstances. You need to know what makes your character angry, what makes them afraid and whether or not they stick at something once they have started.
Writing Character Change
Something about your character needs to change by the end of your story. Change could be overt and life changing or it can be something less obvious, such as a change in that character’s attitude towards something. For example Bev has always felt secure in her own home, until someone breaks in and threatens not only her possessions but her privacy, her need to be herself on her own terms in a world that makes it difficult, especially if you are female.
Get to know your characters as well as, or better than, you know yourself and your best friend or closest relative. Your knowledge of and belief in your character will make them come alive on the page. If you are, like me, writing a series, then yu need to be doubly sure that is the case. Readers don’t have to like your character, but you don’t want them to forget them easily either. Write a rounded character, a character with flaws. What do you think is essential in building a fictional character.
Lee Child (Author, Editor), Jeffery Deaver (Author) 173 days in the top 100 (102) Download: £0.99
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