Friday, August 2, 2013

Character Essentials: "Hooking the Reader through Character Building, Part One" with Brian McBride

Brian A. McBrideBrian McBride is a Christian blogger, writer, and published author of a high fantasy novel geared toward the young-adult crowd. He is a musician, artist, and amateur photographer. He has recently started his third "official" novel, which is book three in The Starcrafters' Saga and is editing book two. He writes fantasy, horror, dystopian, and science fiction of all sorts. You can find him on Facebookhis blogTwitter, and Goodreads.

    Welcome one and all to the first post in my second series, which our new admin/blogger S. Alex Martin (Scalex) will be writing with me (his post is next Friday… Look out!), Hooking the Reader Through Character Building. Today, I just want to run over some of the basic essentials of character building. So bear with me.
    One thing that every writer should know in order to write a terrific story is this: make your character believable! I’ll expound on this with the following points.

1.      Give Flaws To Your Character/s.
    For writers who have been active in the craft for a long time, this is kind of a duh! point, but it cannot be said enough. Unless your character is supposed to be “comically perfect”, you must, must, must endow your characters with flaws. You can’t slack off and think “Oh, no one will notice.”
    Even if all you do is scar your character’s face, at least you’re doing something to add depth to your story. And over time, if you work hard, you will refine your characters’ flaws.
    Here are some basic flaws, just to get you started:
A.    Physical; giving your character physical flaws is a surefire way to add depth to your story. Maybe your character isn’t a very good athlete, maybe s/he isn’t the “hottest” in school, or has stringy hair. Give your character a pimple for crying out loud!
B.     Emotional; giving your character emotional flaws is an excellent way to take your readers beyond the “skin” of your story. Maybe your FMC (Female Main Character) is a drama queen, or maybe she is depressed, emotional. Do something – anything – to give your character the emotional flaws needed to create a better story.
C.     Mental; giving your character mental flaws isn’t as urgent as the previous two, however in some cases it can add to your story. Perhaps your character is schizophrenic, suffers from depression, Alzheimer’s disease, amnesia, or dyslexia. You can see how this point does not apply to all situations, but consider if your character needs a mental flaw in order to create a better story.

2.      Give Emotional Depth to Your Character/s.
    Point 1B makes mention of this, but I’ll expound, for your sakes of course. Don’t think you can get by with “he sobbed” and “she screamed, infuriated”, it takes more than a few words to give your character the emotional depth needed to bring your story to life. Here are some sub-points to guide you:
A.    FEAR. Make sure your character is afraid of something. There is no person alive on this planet that fears nothing. Everyone has fears. Maybe your character is afraid of the dark, or of being alone. Maybe s/he is afraid of losing the people s/he loves. Think long and hard about what your character is afraid of. In the long run, you won’t regret it.
B.     LOVE. I’m a sap for stories that have at least a smidge of romance in them. That’s not to say that stories that don’t have romance aren’t good. Besides, love doesn’t have to just be romance. Realistically, there should always be someone that your MC loves; be it family, friend, boy/girlfriend. Examine whether or not your character has a close bond with someone else.
C.     HATE. Likely, the antagonist is the person your MC most hates, but think also upon material things your character might hate. Spiders, television, Doctor Who (cue the gasps. How dare I speak such blasphemy!). Writers must think about every aspect of their MCs if they desire to create truly 3D characters.
D.    HOPE. If you write dystopian, then the emotion of hope should be a major role in your MC’s life. Even if you don’t write dystopian, there can always be something that a character hopes for. After all, you want to portray your MCs as realistic human figures. Right? Maybe your character hopes to be a musician one day, or an artist, or a political figure (God help them if that’s the case). Hopefully, you’re so in tune with your characters’ personalities that you know exactly what they hope for.

3.      Think About Your Character’s Background.
    This is my third and final point for this post, but it is one I believe to be essential in giving your characters and your story the 3D effect needed to bring it to life in the reader’s mind. You need to consider the background information of your character. Where did s/he go to school? how old is s/he? Family roots? Race/ethnicity? Where does s/he live?
    If you haven’t already, consider including some background information while you are in your characters’ developmental stages. Trust me, 99.9999 percent if the time, you can’t go wrong.

Well, that’s all I have to rant about today, but believe me, I’ll have more for you next time! As I said, next week (Friday) Scotty will be writing Part 2 of “Hooking the Reader through Character Building” so hang in there! You can be sure that he’ll have some awesome rant prepared for you.

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