Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Character Alchemy

If you follow my personal blog, you know that I've been struggling with a particular character in my latest WIP. Eliahna, the dear, bores me. The problem with that? She's the protagonist.

How, you ask, do you craft a boring heroine? Quite simply, really.

The Writer's How-To Guide on Creating Boring Characters
1. You second guess yourself.
2. You read books on novel writing.
3. You read books on the hero's journey
Interlude: Ooops.
4. You realize that your heroine is not only too kick-butt awesome but she's the heroine you always wished you could have read about as a child.
5. You endow her with weaknesses and namby-pamby-ness and self-doubt so that she's more realistic and sympathetic and interesting
Finale: You realize you really don't like your heroine anymore.

What to do? Well, I tossed aside discretion and, gathering up my ragged courage, asked my blog readers for help. Thankfully, I've received a great deal of excellent advice over the last week regarding this little darling -- and, thanks to my blogosphere friends, the challenge is resolving itself.

The Writer's How-To Guide on Transforming Boring Characters
1. If the character bores you, she will bore your audience. Of course, this rings true. Not only did I know this intuitively, but I was afraid of this. Reading it typed out in the comment section, multiple times, made it all the more real. I couldn't pretend any longer; I had to do something about it.

2. Cut her, kill her, or revision her. Wow. Those were some harsh words. Unfortunately, true as well. I took a portion of Gramlich's advice: I decided to re-vision her. And then I took some of my own advice: I beat her up pretty badly. In fact, I went back to her childhood and beat her up there. How evil is that?
3. Make her integral to the plot. Stu mentioned that Eliahna was simply a plot device. Once I thought through the abuse I had piled on her head as a child, the plot itself became clearer. As did her motivations later on in the novel (that I had already plotted out). How bizarre is that?

What about you? Have you created characters that bored you? How did you resolve it? How do you craft characters you (& your readers) care about?

3 comments:

  1. Congrats on the revitalization of Eliahna.

    I've created quite a few boring characters . . . and have pretty much cut them from the manuscript(s). I want the characters as real as possible . . . and I want them to face real life problems . . . and I guess that's how I craft characters I (and my potential readers) will care about.

    If I can relate to the characters, on some level, if I can have an 'a-ha' moment, then I think I've done the job. If I don't have the a-ha moment or can't relate, well, my characters need work.

    Everybody has flaws. If my characters do not have flaws . . . well, why should I care? Why should I invest my time in a character that is perfect? What's the point?

    So, long comment short . . . characters need to have flaws, need to be believable, and I need to care about them. : )

    S

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  2. 6. You switch the memoir and focus on a wide array of characters we have encountered with the WP. Remember.. it is always about memoir.

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  3. Sometimes you have to kick a character when they're down and see if they have the juice to stand up again.

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