Monday, October 5, 2009

Strong characters

I don't know about you, but I want strong yet flawed characters. I want them to have blemishes. People aren't perfect, neither are the people we write about. Because unless we are writing about animals, we're writing about people and they live in the pages of our books. How imperfect we choose to make them is up to us. We control their lives like a chess game and we move the pieces around the board until the end of the book comes and the game is won. I want to give my characters as many hardships as they can handle. They often tell me, "more!" So I give them more troubles. I want them to suffer so the reader will feel in tune with them.

I also let my characters help me write the book. "Ah," you say, "She's gone berserk." No! They offer all kinds of strategic plans to help me solve problems that always arise when I'm writing my stories.

I talk to them. I interview them. I let them interview me. I also read somewhere(can't remember where) to let your MC write you a letter. The letter tells you what the MC thinks about the story you are writing. And it also tells you what kinds of changes you need to make with the plot. Try this one. It is a lot of fun.

Strong characters that have flaws and they help you write the book. Yeah. That is what it's all about. :)


  1. If you've gone beserk, let me join you! :) I never realized how true it is that our characters talk to us until I started a novel. It's amazing what my MC keeps begging for. I try to tell her that drugs and drug dealers are bad people-she still doesn't listen, so there they are in my book.

    I can't wait to try the letter-I happen to be in a spot where I'm stumped...hope this helps. Thanks for a great post!

  2. Fabulous post, my friend!

    I love flawed characters. The more flawed the better, because, as you perfectly stated, "people aren't perfect". Perfect charcters = boredom!! Big. Yawnfest!

    I was writing (go figure) a story once and I created this really peripheral character. I mean, itty-bitty, minor character, brief appearance . . . DONE! Or, so I thought. Somehow, during one of the revision processes of that project, this itty-bitty, secondary, minor character became a strong and vibrant character who leaped off the pages. You see, she wasn't content being a background character. There was something about her that made me revise my writing strategy and let her stand center stage.

    So, yes, my character's speak to me. I listen, sometimes not clearly enough, but I listen.

    I let my characters carry me away with their forward momentum. Every now and then, we hit a brick wall, but most times, we get from beginning to end with nary a tumble!


  3. I don't think you're beserk at all. The character SHOULD take control of the story. Besides editors like it more when the MC is proactive and CAUSE things to happen instead merely reacting to things that happen to them... at least that's what I read in my rejection letters. Sigh.

  4. :D This reminds me of my post today! You make a great point about character flaws. I feel like I do a great job at creating conflict, but sometimes I try to make my characters too perfect. This is one thing I'm working really hard on with my new WIP. I want my characters to be real. Great post!

  5. Thanks for this post, Robyn. I tend to err on the other extreme. I'm interested in people that I don't understand, and often those people are unsympathetic. So, I often spend my energy looking for their good sides, pointing out the places where they did beautiful things.

    That letter exercise is great! Thanks for mentioning it.

  6. My characters stole my book and took over the writing. Boy, did their flaws come out when I allowed this to happen. I completely get what you are saying here, and I don't think you've gone berserk.

  7. Very true! Characters that are either black or white aren't interesting, and can be hard to relate to. I love heroes to have flaws and villains to have some good points.

    You're not weird. My characters write the story. I'm just a set of fingers that can type. :D

  8. Great characters make great stories and the problems they bring are just inevitable. There is need for people to see their struggles in writing, for them to know they are not alone.

    Great post!

    Blessings to you...

  9. I like that idea! I've heard of the interview trick but not the letter. Thanks for the tip.

  10. I like watching my characters grow into who they really are, and usually that includes flaws. Writing this recent first draft, I've found that my characters not the same people that they were when I started. They seem more real. Now the trick is to get them feeling real at the beginning, too, when I start revisions!

  11. Kristi, I hope it helps you too. Let me know, will you? I know that the letter writing idea has helped me. So good luck! :)

    Scott, nary a tumble. You go! And doesn't it feel oh so great? I have had some minor problems in my first draft but nary a tumble YET. And I'm sure there won't be. And hey, I bet that 'itty-bitty' character ended up being the BEST one in the story. Because she whispered in you ear and asked you to help her be all that she can be. WOOHOOOOO! :)

    Linda, YOU? REJECTION LETTERS?? uhuh. :) And I'm glad that you mention that you are getting that advice. So I'm not berserk? Whew! *she wipes her brow* :)

    Thanks Cindy. And hey, we all want to make our characters perfect. But we shouldn't. We should make 'em NORMAL.:)

    Davin, the exercise is really fun. And I remember you writing a post about you and your unsympathetic characters. Me, I try to pick the most sympathetic ones. And I'm trying to s-t-o-p that. :)

    Susan, I am glad that you agree and think I haven't gone berserk. I wondered as I was posting. I thought I may have gone ZONKERS. :)And isn't it something when the characters tell us how the story should go? :)

    Danyelle, I got into my blog. WOOHOO! And I'm a set of fingers that can type too. Love the way you put that, btw. :)

    Tamika, great to see you friend. You put that so well. And I agree. There is a need for us to see us in our writing or our reading. Thanks girl. :)

    Jill, the letter thing is so much fun to do. And you will get some good out of it, trust me. :)

    Belle, that is so true. They DO seem more real. And they are never the same as when you began the novel.And that is good, isn't it? :)

  12. I agree, the best characters are those who teach us to see the dimension in others and in our own selves. It's that complexity that makes them jump off the page in into our hearts.

  13. As you can see by my noveling blog, I love flawed characters too. Amy has more issues than any character I've written about in my life, but I love her anyway. I wouldn't change her avaricious, sly little soul for anything in the world.

  14. Tess, and they do jump off tht page. :) I love it!

    uninvoked, yes I see that. And I totally agree. Flawed characters are just like we are, flawed. Thanks. :)

  15. totally agree. :) I wanted to let you know about my blog address change. *sigh* If you're following me, my posts now won't show up in your feed, dashboard, sidebar, whatever. So please forgive me, but you'll have to change the address for my main writing blog, Where Romance Meets Therapy, to To do this, you have to "unfollow" me and follow me again. Sorry for the confusion!

    The Character Therapist

  16. Jeannie, of course I follow you. And thanks for letting me know. I will make the change right away. :)

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