Hiyo, everyone! I haven’t done a writing related topic in ages, so I figured I’d do one today – and, once again, it’s focused on one of my favorite parts of fiction, the characters! Here, I’ll discuss five traits I really like to see in characters, in no particular order. Some of these are pretty commonly discussed as vital to writing a character people can relate to, and others not so much. Of course, I’m sure there are traits I’ll forget to mention. xD But I can always do another list later! Sooo let’s start!
Yup, this one is about as generic as you can get, but still very important. Usually, an author will want to write main characters who are relatable, and since, as humans, we’re all flawed, it’s really hard for us to relate to perfect people. That’s why you gotta give your characters flaws! Flawed characters also make for better storytelling, because they offer an inherent journey – the journey of overcoming the flaws. That gives the reader something to root for throughout your work. If you like diabolical twists like I do, you can also choose to expand on your characters’ flaws and make them become more problematic over time. That just ramps up the conflict!
Okay, okay, another common one. But it’s still important! Giving your character some sort of passion, no matter how strange (In fact, the stranger the better, in my opinion!) makes them more relatable to the reader, because most of us are at least a little passionate about something, whether we realize it or not. And those who are completely dispassionate probably will just be bored reading a dispassionate main character anyway. Passion also inherently drives conflict by providing your character both with related motives and with something to lose. It also ties your character more strongly to the world around them, which makes for better worldbuilding.
You guys probably think I’m just being desperately generic right now. What irony, talking about quirks in a list that, so far, travels along the straight and narrow! But that’s okay. I’m still gonna talk about them. We’ll get more into my own eccentricities later.
Aaanyway, quirks are important because they make your characters seem more real. We all have our quirks – little habits we have that aren’t shared by many of the people around us – even if we don’t always see them. Showing a character’s quirks provides a better insight to their personality. It also offers potential plot points – maybe the unique details about how a character acts will point at them as the culprit in the event that a mystery unfolds or, better yet, be used as a red herring! Manipulating quirks can also make for good plot twists. If a character is too set in their ways, you can use that fact against them to make something really unexpected happen.
Here’s where the fun begins! One of the most compelling things a character can show me is a wildly different outlook on their world than is the established norm. Two examples you may be familiar with if you follow the fantasy genre are Auri from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things and Lift from Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer. Both of these characters have such unique ways of viewing their surroundings that they can make what you might consider familiar scenery new again. Things like emphasizing details most others would overlook and prioritizing objectives that others would deem trifling can completely warp a situation. It makes me ultra happy to encounter a well-written character who pulls this off, not to mention a little jealous, because I’d really like to be able to offer such engaging characters in my own writing!
This is the trait I find makes for the most entertaining characters of all. It’s just the best when someone believably writes a character whose perspective is so warped or single-minded that they’re able to act and think in flagrantly different ways with a single coherent goal in mind. Though not from a conventional novel, the best example I can think of is Nagito Komaeda from the Danganronpa franchise. Minor spoilers: His goal is to create hope by forcing the other characters to overcome extremely despair-inducing situations of his own creation. The inherent conflict yet simultaneous cohesiveness in his way of thinking makes him a supremely interesting character. I find characters with this trait to be quite rare, but when one is presented well, they tend to just steal the show and make me want to read (or watch, play, etc) more and more just to see what happens and whether the contradiction explodes upon itself or somehow wins through.
And that’s it for today’s list! What did you guys think of my picks? Do you agree with them? Think I missed out on anything? Do you have particular characters you’d like to bring to my attention based on these preferences? I welcome your feedback and comments! Until next time, have a wonderful week!