Creating characters – Part 5

by juliusmsanz

Ok, let’s keep on pushing forward, there’s at least a couple of things I want to talk about.

Let’s start with judging. Does your character judge others? Of course she has to make a judgment or two, it’s just the way we are, the question is this: does she judge much or not? When we try to write about it, it can make a little bit flawed, because he/she won’t always say good things about other people and situations. We think about things all the time, and while doing so we compare things. As we compare things we judge some to be better than others, and that’s just the way it goes.

This obviously leads to a couple of different questions: how does the character perceive himself/herself? And how does the character thinks others perceive him? One character can believe he’s all that and the truth is that he’s not, and if you’re writing from that character’s point of view, then you may have some interesting material to work with: we call this the unreliable narrator. Trust me, it’s plenty of fun because you can go any direction you want and warp things to your heart’s content. Remember that movie The Others with Nicole Kidman? You can deliver some very nice plot twists. Do we always think that others think the same thing we do about ourselves? We might do that, and it’s ok, but sometimes you can take advantage of that line.

One character can think badly of himself and can think that others see him as a nice person. This is a good form of internal conflict and can lead to some interesting developments. Why does the character see himself that way? Does he have a problem? If so, what is it? Does the character act differently when he’s with other people? Why can other people think good of him? Is he some sort of helper? Somebody reliable? Is he a gentleman? Why doesn’t the character show his true self in the work place? Does he fear embarrassment? Does he fear rejection? Does he prefer to climb the corporate ladder and go for the top? Does he think he’s not good enough? Think about Behind Blue Eyes by The Who, it’s the other way around.

As you can see it’s all about brainstorming.

With this amount of brainstorming you can say a lot about this person’s values and his judging system. You can dissect him/her even more, but remember that this has to show in your story.

Let’s talk about another thing, this one pissed me off: writing black and white.

What do I mean by this?

Remember the cartoons you used to see? How the villain was pure evil? How the hero was a complete saint? Things don’t work that way in real life. One person may be evil towards one and nice to another. Granted, you don’t see such a well-defined path anymore, and thank God for that, but it’s still there, creeping around, waiting to get into your writing at every moment. It’s easy to continue to vilify and sanctify, but that should not be your focus. Remember what I wrote about interesting characters? It’s somewhere in my previous posts. Long story short, characters are interesting because in the end they are grey. That’s depth, that’s a bit of dimension and can even lead to some interesting character development as your story goes on. Villains have feelings too, and heroes aren’t perfect. I’ll talk about character flaws in another post.

Well that is all for now. See you tomorrow for part 6! (6?! Really?!)

Have a nice day!