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Characters count!

Characters count!

“Basically, fiction is people. You can’t write fiction about ideas.” ~ Theodore Sturgeon (1918-1985) Science Fiction Author

Not enough people seem to get this, and novice young adult writers aren’t alone it this either. If you take a look at the main plots of many novels, especially mainstream YA fiction, you’re reading the same story over and over. So, why do people read the same story repeatedly? It’s not because they’re so interested in what happens, as much as how people deal with what happens. People like to fall in love with the characters in a story. If they didn’t like them then they wouldn’t demand sequels. We don’t care what happens to our favourite main character (MC) as long as we’re along for the ride.

This brings up the question, “What makes a great main character?” The answer: “His or her flaws.” Some authors will create perfect characters which the masses have dubbed Gary Stu and Mary Sue. These characters are kind, compassionate, incredibly good-looking, loved by good, envied by evil, you get the idea. The problem with these types of characters is that they tend to be either boring, annoying, or just unbelievable. You certainly don’t want your readers feeling any of those things toward your protagonist. We all have flaws. We relate to characters that also have flaws. Characters need to grow during the course of a story. They need to learn. They can’t go through life making all the right decisions, helping everyone around them with ease, or beating bad guys after an epic yet obviously one-sided battle. Because, seriously, who does that?

So when you come up with a great plot for a story, the next thing you need to do is come up with great characters to deal with it, characters people will love or love to hate. Take a look at your favourite MCs and ask yourself, “What was wrong with them?” Learn from example and take it from there.

“The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Dont. This is your protagonist, not your kid.” ~ Janet Fitch

One Comment

  1. Great point –– one of the biggest character booboos you can make is creating them ‘perfect.’ And I love the last quote by Janet Fitch. :)