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Posts Tagged ‘characters’

It’s amazing how much good character development can change a storyline, whether it’s in a book or a TV series/movie. The problem is that good character development is often extremely difficult to write. I speak specifically regarding authors on this, though I’m sure the same can be said for television series.

I’ve been recently re-watching one of my favorite series of all time, Downton Abbey. I absolutely love this show, and I’d forgotten just how good the storyline was. I remember talking to my parents when I watched it through the first time, and describing how much I absolutely despised Thomas’s character. I had just finished season 1 and was secretly rooting for him to die horribly in season 2. My parents (having both seen up to season 3 by that point) cried out at the same time, “Not Thomas!”

thI couldn’t understand what on earth they were talking about – until I finally caught up to them and got through season 3 as well. Now, as we all impatiently wait for season 6 to arrive, I have to admit that they were right. Thomas is one of my absolute favorite characters. Naturally there are characters that I’ve simply loved since the first moment they showed up one screen (Anna and Mr. Bates! OMG!). But the events that have happened throughout the series have affected everyone, from the highest lord to the lowliest servant, and that’s part of what makes it such a phenomenal hit. The other part, I’m convinced, is because of the incredible character development. Every character has a background and a reason for being who they are. It’s beautifully written and wonderfully executed by the actors.

Characters can make or break a good book just as easily. Too many times I’ve seen series fizzle out after a couple of books because either the storyline has become mundane or the characters are flat. Your characters have to be real. They have to feel emotions and be relatable to the people reading about them. There has to be a reason for their actions and behaviors.

One of the best writing exercises that I’ve found for myself is to create a “meme” for my characters and give them profiles. (I’ve posted a few here on my blog, just for fun.) I have questions ranging from their favorite color to whether or not they have any family still living. What were their previous occupations? Do they have any fears/phobias? I’ve seen authors who have even made it look like the characters wrote the answers themselves.

Even if none of that information ever makes it into the book, it helps me to craft believable, three-dimensional characters. Yeah, sometimes it’s daunting to keep track of everything, particularly when you have multiple series, but keeping notes and creating these kinds of exercises helps create worlds and characters that readers can understand.

What are some of your strategies as a writer? How do you remember all of your characters and their histories?

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Somehow, my Geekdar managed to miss the fact that last Friday, July 13th was actually, in fact, Embrace Your Geekness Day.

I can’t make this stuff up, people.

Only someone made of awesome can play a space captain, a mutant and a scrooge and still be able to quote Shakespeare. The man’s talent knows no bounds. Seriously.

Not only that, but it ALSO happened to be the birthdays of two of the greatest actors to have ever served Geek-kind, Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford. (Mr. Stewart gets slightly more precedence than Mr. Ford, by the simple fact that he has portrayed two enormous characters within the geek world, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Professer Charles Xavier.)

While I confess that I’ve never actually read any of the Marvel comics, I am a huge fan of the movies. Or the ones that are actually done right, anyway. (Thank you, Iron Man and Thor, patooie to the original Hulk film and X3.) I’ve considered sitting down and trying to read a few just for the heck of it, so I can actually get the references and inside jokes from the movies, but I’ve just gotten so used to manga, I can’t really get into any other art style. Sad, I know. I’ve gotten spoiled, I suppose.

You know you’re a manga snob when you can spot an “Ameri-manga” immediately and shudder in horror at the mere sight of it. Seriously. The Japanese aren’t trying to take over Marvel/DC Comics and make them their own. Let them have their artwork made of awesome, and you can have your own artwork made of awesome. Stop the madness!

As an artist, I do appreciate the time and talent it takes for both forms of art. A Western-style comic book is just as detailed and takes as much talent as any manga. I just happen to prefer manga. Maybe it’s the art style. Maybe it’s the character development. Maybe it’s the humor. Or maybe it’s the fact that manga guys actually look pretty hot. Who knows?

Hmm. Come to think of it, that explains a lot, actually. *eyebrow waggle*

I guess it’s safe to say that when it comes to my favorite characters, I sort of have a type, eh? You’d think from these guys that I’d totally fall for blondes in real life, but that’s actually not normally the case. Weird.

Go ahead, admit it. You might make fun of us geeks for getting all excited over a good-looking character, but you know that you only watched X-Men because Hugh Jackman was in it.

However, as someone who has fallen so deeply in love with so many characters over the years, be it from a book, movie, TV show, etc., I find myself wondering if people are going to feel the same way about my characters. Will I create that saga that keeps readers chomping at the bit for more? Will they actually cry if I kill off a character? Will they sympathize with the character’s struggles and longings?

Honestly, I’m not sure what makes a good character great. Perhaps it’s being able to relate to their temptations and yearnings, experiencing what they experience, feeling what they feel. I could spend all day listing characters that have touched even my shriveled, black heart. Characters that will live on long after their creators. I suppose in the long run, that’s really all that authors – or geeks – can ask for: That their work will touch new generations year after year and be remembered for the decades to come.

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