Having a character that just seems bland and uninteresting can be a real downer on a story, causing the reader to follow this character with a more apathetic or possibly confused stance. But luckily we found this awesome video by YouTube content creator, and free-lance editor, Ellen Brock. She has a whole catalogue of writing advice on her channel as well as some other fun videos that you can check out, we have all of her links at the bottom of the post, go check her out! But anyways she has created this video, talking about some common issues that are keeping your character from getting off of the ground level.
We have a summary prepared for you who would like a brief synopsis you can read through, but please do watch the video as she explains a few things in more detail. So yeah, summary time.
One issue that some writers make is having the idea that your character has to be likeable to be a good character, but that’s not always the case. As sometimes when you try and make a nice guy out of someone who seems like a bad guy, it can backfire and create a weird and confusing character, making them unrealistic and unrelatable. What you want more is someone interesting, someone who the readers want to learn more about. But one thing you have to remember is that you’re not going to please everyone, and that’s fine, as long as it’s just a small outlying group of people, but if it seems that everyone’s telling you that your characters have issues then that’s when you should start reevaluating your characters.
The first item on Ellen’s list is that your character’s personality may not be coming across through the pages of your story. This could just need a simple reread and revision, but if you’re having issues with finding what’s wrong you may want to take a step back and try to distance yourself from the work, so you can take a look at it with new eyes. In the video Ellen states that sometimes the author just knows to much and forgets that the reader doesn’t know as much, so you may need someone else’s eyes if the first suggestion doesn’t work. Find someone who is willing to read the troubled area, and interview them on their thoughts.
One major rule in writing is showing not telling, even though there are situations for telling, but showing usually comes much more naturally to the flow, and it can create more interesting scenes. So if you create a character and don’t have any scenes designed to show the attributes of this person, rather you just have lines telling the reader what’s up with the character. This can create a more arrogant seeming character, as you don’t really see them using these traits, rather you just know their there. And another thing, you want to avoid showing personality traits that don’t really show how you want someone to come across, you want to stick to the most prominent traits that matter the most to this character. This is because readers will often latch onto the first impression they receive of a character, and that can really set them up for disappointment.
Showing negative traits and not explaining them does not mean going into a full on flashback of a character’s dark and haunting past, especially near the beginning of a story or character introduction. You just give subtle hints at what is haunting their lives, and by doing that you create intrigue in the audience, and if you manage to give a good reveal with the hints you layout you can have a pretty satisfactory story as well.
Characters always have to want something in a story, otherwise there’s no real driving force for the plot. You have to show characters wanting something, whether that be change in them self or that cool new bike, whatever it is they have to have something they’re after. But if your character does want something, you just haven’t expressed that properly than you just need to add something about what they want, it’s basically those Disney movies songs about wanting something. Without the proper indication of a want, a reader might just see a character that is completely fine, and thus boring and unrelatable.
And then there’s the other side of the coin, a character can want something, but can they get to it? Supply the character with something that is going to get in their way, and keep their dreams off in the distance. Otherwise your character wants something, and then they get it without any kind of issue, we mean, like, why didn’t Timmy have to give up his life so that Tommy could get that cool new bike, ugh, it’s so unrealistic.
Don’t have characters based off of stereotypes and cliches that have been overused, and may be even a little bit insensitive to some people. The main fix for this is to combine character traits in new and interesting ways, ways that give the character some uniqueness. But total uniqueness is almost impossible, but you can give it your best at a fresh take on a cliche or trope. And also don’t make these normal characters, and then put them in average situations, like, oh no, Tommy must make his mom chocolate milk or else she’ll get mad. Tommy should instead be thrust into a giant gladiator ring with dinosaurs. or you can have Bladeroth the Chinkened, a dark wizard, make his mother chocolate milk. Yes it’s pure genius.
The last issued addressed was when writers do not properly put the reader into a character’s shoes. You need to explain to the reader what your character is feeling, and you need to do it with style, but don’t be overwhelming and gaudy with your style, because we don’t need you to compare the toilet seat to the sun rising on a new horizon.
Thank you Ellen Brock for the video, we hope you enjoyed our take in the summary, as well as the video. Have a nice day, now for the links…. Hurray!
Visit Ellen Brock’s channel by clicking here.
Visit her website as well by clicking here.
She can also be found on Twitter, @EllenMBrock