February 2, 2010

How to Fix Boring Characters

What makes a great character? In my first drafts, I always end up with a handful of characters that are boring and useless. I delete most of them, but sometimes I can give them CPR and make them plot-driving characters that make the book richer.
For starters, every good character has goals. Without a goal, a character gets pushed around. Without a clear goal, the character becomes flat and unsympathetic. Without a goal, your characters aren't really part of the story are they? There Are No Rules posted on characters, their goals, and how to use them to choose a protagonist (or make your current protagonist more central to your story).
Next, your characters need to be unique. Avoid stock characters like the good cop/bad cop; the perfect (wo)man hero(ine); the super-strict, no-personality teacher; or the wise old mentor. Change things up.
Give the mentor flaws (besides absent-minded or strict). Make him obsessed with kittens or chocolate or tiddlywinks. (Dumbledore liked lemon drops I think. It was a great detail that made him more likeable and believable.)
Make the cop nerdy. Here's a great guest post on Rachelle Gardner's blog about Avoiding On-the-Nose Writing.
Rachelle Gardner herself wrote about surprising your reader with your characters. We all have things about us that are surprising. Read this article and make sure to read the comments. Everyone posted something about themselves that was surprising--a trove of ideas!
Thursday's post is going to continue a bit with characters, but it will focus on villains!

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