“I guess I’m just a good man. Well, I’m alright.”

tumblr_mk8yczG0uZ1rnl2v3o1_500I touched the subject of ‘character perfection’ in my last post, but I decided to dedicate an entire post to it. Yay! Now, you all know how I feel about the Perfect Characters (hence the reason I can’t stand Elsie Dinsmore, excellent values though she may have) – I don’t like them. They give an unrealistic air to the entire book, and it’s hard to take them seriously. Some writers, though, have trouble with creating characters who AREN’T perfect – I mean, we want the best for our characters, right? We want people to like them! Trouble is, we tend to swing the other direction. Characters come out as either angels or demons, when what we really want is a human being.

So, here are a few helpful tricks for turning your Perfect Character into someone a little more realistic – and, in the end, more likable.

1. Give a negative side to a positive attribute. A cheerful personality can become TOO cheerful, and therefore, annoying. A character who always tells the truth could go too far and be rudely blunt to everyone. If a person is shy, it could be taken as rude or self-centered. A polite person could become foppish and condescending. The possibilities are endless! *wink*

2. Pick flaws that suit your character. If you’ve got a huge, brawling cowboy, his flaw probably won’t be the condescending politeness I just mentioned. Likewise, if your character is a slight little thing, they won’t constantly be beating people up. (Unless they’re gifted with special powers.) For instance, I have an imagination that never quits – even when it should. Like at funerals, or during serious conversations. I also get bored very, very easily, which is frequently mistaken as “Just shoot me now.”

3. Put your character into a situation where he’s pushed to his limits. Maybe someone insults him to his face until he can’t take it anymore, or hurts someone he loves. Maybe his reputation is sullied online or in town or wherever his reputation could be sullied. Find out exactly how they would react in a stressful situation.

4. Remember, your character is as close to a real person as words can get. Therefore, they should change and grow like a real person. He might be one way now, but maybe by the end of the story, he’ll be different. And, if you’re lucky, you might even grow along with him. I know I grow along with my characters, particularly Mir. He showed me a lot of things.

Now, I have to stick this in here – don’t hop on the pendulum and swing so far trying to make an imperfect character that you make him downright bad, unless he’s intended to be. I write a lot of dark characters, but I do my best to balance their darkness with light. I also write light characters, but they have hidden darkness. Make your characters real, make them unique, and let them grow. End speech.

“Daddy, is he a good man or a bad man?”

“Honey, there’s no such thing.” 

– Jericho


14 thoughts on ““I guess I’m just a good man. Well, I’m alright.”

  1. YES! This is the problem I have most often, and surprisingly, with my girls. As you already know, Nevaeh used to be PERFECT GOODY-TWO SHOES, and I knew I had to ‘imperfect’ her. Then I found out she was a princess and tended to be bratty, whiny, and self-centered at times. A lot of times, characters will imperfect themselves once you get to know them better and know their back story.

  2. Firefly quote?? :O *squee* Mal is the best. XD

    I agree to a point… though I think there is something to be said for having actual role-models. I don’t know if you’ve read any of the historical books by G. A. Henty but I’ve heard a lot of people bash them because the heroes are just that — heroes. They say they’re not human enough, but I disagree. And moving along that line, what about say, Aragorn? He seems pretty heroic to me and I can’t think of a flaw he has, offhand. Does that mean he’s not a character people love? So there’s something here I’m not getting… Maybe the brilliant Mirri can shed some light on it? *Alec puppy dog eyes*

    • YES!! MAL!!! XD I had to. Because I’m a newly converted Firefly nut. But anyway – Aragorn is very noble and pure and definitely someone to look up to, but he isn’t perfect, either. He fears his own bloodline and doesn’t want to take up his heritage even though people are suffering on another king. See? Amazing, noble, good – but not perfect.

      • I . . . sort of thought that most of the insecure stuff was in the film… I don’t seem to recall much about that in the books. Though admittedly I haven’t read the books in awhile.

        Yayyy! Does that mean I can fangirl Firefly with you? 😀 I just started rewatching them with my brother and it’s so fun! Though with the usual occasional blah like all TV shows have… How many have you seen? Which is your fave charrie? (or should we move this to email? XD) And most importantly ISN’T THE THEME-SONG THE COOLEST EVER?!

        • Well, that’s one reason why I love him. People who aren’t tempted by something as great as the Ring are too perfect/saints. People who are tempted by it and overcome that temptation to do what’s right are awesome. period. XD

  3. Well put. I will be sure to keep these in mind if I ever try to write a novel.

    If there was a character based on me, he’d like to talk entirely too much, talk too fast, be rather weird/quirky (and twitchy, says the guy who was just standing next to me), and have people ask him if he’s had any energy drinks or if he has ADHD. XD

  4. Finally! Someone who has read the Elsie Dinsmore books and shares my opinion about her! She drives me crazy, and yet my sister absolutely loves her.

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