Five Traits I Like in Characters

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!

Flaws

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!

Passion

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.

Quirks

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.

Unusual Perspectives

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!

Extreme Contradictions

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!

Evi’s tips on writing characters who complement each other

Hiyo, everyone! Today I have a writing-related topic to discuss, though it’s broad enough to cover not just written media, but also the scripts for movies, shows, and all sorts of other things. I’m going to talk about how I make my cast of characters complement each other!

I’ll start with some brief clarification. I don’t intend on discussing how to make characters compliment each other, i.e. say nice things to each other. That’s a totally different topic! When you Google the word complement, used as a verb, the definition you get is “add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect.” That’s what I plan to delve into. How to make each of your key characters improve each other.

The above definition begs a question: “What exactly does it mean for a character to be ‘perfect’ (or ‘complete’) within the context of the story?” The answer certainly isn’t to make them without character flaws. In fact, doing that makes them less compelling as characters because flawless people aren’t relatable. In my eyes, the key is in what drives all stories forward: Conflict.

Any compelling story should have themes, or questions it provokes in the reader/viewer/player. Characters complement each other well when you’re able to compare and contrast them with regards to theme. To use the Harry Potter series as an example, Harry and Voldemort complement each other because they have opposite views on the series’ central theme of death; Harry risks his life for others time and again, whereas Voldemort goes to great lengths in his quest for immortality. Their underlying philosophies thematically clash with each other even as the characters fight each other magically, adding another dimension to their struggle.

I find the best antagonists challenge the protagonist of the story in every way, especially thematically. But enemies aren’t the only ones who should have a thematically inspired relationship. Ideally, all major characters should have their own thoughts regarding central themes. Often, the protagonist’s allies in large part agree with them , but interactions between them are more interesting if they at least disagree regarding something related to the themes. Two perfectly harmonic viewpoints won’t come into opposition with each other, and conflict is everything.

Goals are another key factor to keep in mind. What are each of your characters trying to achieve? If your ‘good guys’ are teaming up, it’s quite possible that they have very similar goals, but, still, it’s important to make it clear why they have those goals. Two people can arrive at the same conclusion for very different reasons, and by delving into those, the reader/viewer/player gains a better understanding of not only the characters, but the theme itself.

As I mentioned above, your characters should have flaws. One way to make them work well together is by having them challenge each other’s weaknesses. By forcing them to acknowledge their own shortcomings, you create an inner struggle in each character that naturally leads to character development. To use a vaguer example, you may have one character be too merciful towards defeated foes and another be completely merciless. By making them butt heads over that difference, you can move both characters’ story arcs forward.

Of course, it’s important to write a cast of characters that is diverse in all sorts of ways, including personality traits. While all the main characters should have thoughts regarding the central themes, there should be more to them than just that. Be careful not to focus so much on character synergy that you forget to make each character a thoroughly fleshed out individual! If two different characters look at the same painting (just a silly example), they will probably have non-identical thoughts surrounding it. As with goals, clashing viewpoints can be used to paint a larger picture of the themes at hand and, in doing so, really help tie the novel together.

What do you guys think? Do you disagree with me, or think I missed any important points? What sort of themes do you find most compelling? I bet, if you analyze your favorite works, you’ll find a lot of examples of synergy throughout. Please let me know if you notice anything! Until next time, enjoy, and have a wonderful week!

 

Series Highlight: The Stormlight Archive

Way of Kings 3

Hiyo, everyone! It has been a while since I last covered any novels, so today we’ll be looking at a whole series of them: The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. This series is huge, still in progress, and just plain awesome. Currently, the first three books are released: The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Oathbringer. I last read the former two books back when they were first released, so it has been years, and I may not remember everything perfectly. However, I recently devoured Oathbringer, and it has left me wanting to revisit the series and discuss it with others!

It’s hard to properly describe the story briefly because there’s just so much to it, so instead, I’ll focus on three of the early main characters and their arcs in The Way of Kings. In book one, the character who gets the most page-time is named Kaladin. He’s a man who goes to great lengths to protect those he cares about, only to find himself worse off for it every time. After performing a nearly-inhuman feat to help the lord he serves, he is betrayed and branded a slave for his trouble. He struggles to find any hope to cling to in a world so consistently unfair.

Shallan Davar is a young noble who has traveled the world in pursuit of the renowned scholar and atheist Jasnah Kholin. Shallan seeks to become Jasnah’s ward – a sort of academic apprentice – but her intentions are not as pure as they seem. Her true motive is to rob one of the world’s keenest minds of a magical device necessary to safekeep her family’s future.

Dalinar Kholin is a Highprince of his kingdom who is known for the ferocity on the battlefield that characterized his youth. He finds himself forced into the position of a leader rather than a fighter, and experiences strange visions urging him to unite the nations of the world. Changed by the death of his brother, the former king, Dalinar searches for an honorable way to guide his country through the trials to come.

Those are only a few of the characters, of course. There are tons more, some with very unique viewpoints. Sanderson is a master worldbuilder, and the world of Roshar, in which these novels take place, is diverse and rife with deep lore. I can’t do it justice in a short post. I can only urge you to give the series a try for yourself.

That said, The Stormlight Archive is aimed at fans of epic fantasy – each of the three books in released in the main series so far is over 1,000 pages long. There’s also a spin-off novella called Edgedancer. I haven’t had the chance to read that yet, but it’s definitely high on my priority list now.

To make things even more daunting, The Stormlight Archive is one of many series that takes place in Sanderson’s Cosmere, a set of interwoven universes with varied magic systems. The other included series so far are less enormous than The Stormlight Archive, so you may want to start with one of those instead. Personally, the first book I read by Sanderson was Mistborn, and he has since become one of my favorite authors.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I won’t go into any more detail here. Just know that Sanderson writes both worlds and characters that are deep and exceedingly well developed. I recommend his work to any fan of fantasy.

Have you read anything by Brandon Sanderson? If so, what are your favorites of his stories? if not, who are your favorite fantasy authors? Please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!

Why I Love Writing Deeply Flawed Characters

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to talk about something a bit different – why I like writing ultra messed up characters in my work! I don’t plan on actually discussing my own characters in any depth; analyzing them is best left to the readers. Shameless plug – if you want to see some examples, please check out my sample fiction, Borne of Fear, here.

When writers discuss character flaws, they often express their dislike of ‘Mary Sue’s – characters who don’t have any large flaws. And they definitely have a point. It’s important for major characters in any work to start with flaws, not only to make them more believable, and also to leave room for character development. Fiction is most interesting to experience when the protagonists struggle against themselves in the process of pursuing their goals. But, in this post, I don’t intend to discuss your everyday flaws. I want to talk about characters who are so flawed it’s hard to look past their shortcomings. Here are two reasons why I love including them in my work!

They offer unusual perspectives

It’s safe to say those of us who frequently experience fiction have met multitudes of protagonists with straightforward good intentions. If they don’t want to save the world, they at least want to protect their loved ones. Maybe they have some personal ambition – to excel in their field of choice, to hook up with their ideal partner, or just to find a place for themselves in the world. Characters with such goals work because they’re relatable. Just about everyone has desires like that. It’s easy to get into that protagonist’s shoes.

But what about a character who wants to destroy the world? To be fair, they’re not all that uncommon, either. What sets the interesting ones apart from the rest is learning why they’re pursuing that goal. If they aren’t given a compelling reason, that turns into a letdown for the reader. But when they do have a good reason, they can be marvels to behold. There’s something satisfying about hearing a ‘bad’ character spout their twisted logic and seeing whether there’s any part of yourself that at all agrees. That could just be me, (in which case you all probably now think I’m crazy) but I don’t think so, because readers tend to latch on to those characters. They’re fun to analyze, and, deep down, some of us may want to learn if we, too, are a little messed up in places.

A similar thought process builds intrigue for characters who don’t want to destroy the world, but who have personal goals that would generally be considered ‘not okay.’ For instance, imagine a serial killer who wants to make their kill count as high as possible, or a financial trader whose secret ambition is to crash the global market. Such goals are more interesting to consider than ones based on, say, sheer greed. A character who wants to do terrible things that offer no tangible benefit to themself is inherently more intriguing. And the more invested the reader is in the story, the better!

They present a challenge

As a writer, once I’ve developed a screwed up character with sick goals, I strive to go one step further. I challenge myself to make that character relatable, if only a little bit. Behind all those mental gymnastics and fragile excuses, there exists a person who wants something akin to the rest of us. I want my readers to make that connection. Even if they neither like nor pity the monster I’ve created, I strive to lead them to understand the journey that brought my character to take such extreme actions. If you look closely enough, you may find the remnants of a person who wanted something not so different from the protagonists I described above. Love. A place in the world. Some meaning in their lives. The deeply flawed character may have gone too far, or lost too much self-awareness in pursuit of their goal to understand what they’ve become. I want to show that train wreck in full. I want my readers to be able to imagine the better people my characters might have become if they’d made different choices along the way.

So, darker topic today! Please let me know what you thought! Do you find yourself intrigued by deeply flawed characters? Do you think they’re overdone? Would you like to see more posts like this? I’m eager for your feedback. ‘Til next time, have a wonderful week, and ciao!

 

Evi’s Tips for Combating Writer’s Block

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’d like to talk about a handful of techniques I use to beat Writer’s Block. Most writers I know find themselves uncertain how to proceed every now and then, so if you are suffering from Writer’s Block, know you’re far from alone. There are plenty of sites around offering ideas for how to overcome it; I have no intention of parroting those. I’m just gonna tell you about a few things that work for me. They may help you, or they may not, but I hope something I say is useful to someone!

Let’s begin!

Experience more stories

One thing that gives me a creative jump-start is reading, watching, playing, etc. some sort of media that’s compelling to me from a narrative standpoint. It doesn’t at all have to be perfect; it just has to do something I like, whether that be executing killer plot twists, developing deep characters, getting me really into the lore, or whatever else. While it’s not cool to copy someone else’s work, there’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others. So see what stories the world has to offer – and remind yourself of why you want to write in the first place.

Develop aspects of your story one at a time

Quite often, Writer’s Block stems from a feeling that something about your work isn’t good enough. Starting a story (or chapter, or whatever else) from scratch can be daunting. You may have thoughts about your setting and characters, but struggle to come up with a plot. That’s okay. When I find myself in that position, I slow down and work on the pieces of my stories one at a time. You can flesh out a character you really like; think about what they like and dislike, and what they would do in all sorts of situations they’ll never actually experience. Use what you do know to create more. Imagine conflicts that might arise between your characters and setting/plot. If you don’t know what sort of characters to write yet but do know about the setting/plot, consider the difficulties your setting/plot impose. Make a character who has to overcome them. Make them fight their fears.

It may be frustrating to have to dial back the pace of your writing to get the specifics just right, but it’s better to work slowly than to come to a standstill.

Mash separate ideas together

You may have vague ideas about several stories you’d like to write. They may seem like they have nothing to do with each other. Try making them fit anyway; it can foster new thoughts. Maybe you’d like to write one story about werewolves and another about traveling in space. You could put those together by writing about a werewolf astronaut who’s traveling to the moon and doesn’t understand what sort of effect that will have on their body. Often, mashing two ideas together will lead to something that appears outlandish, but outlandishness breeds originality. You may find yourself with a story that really breaks the mold.

Just write

Sometimes, writing something decent can seem impossible. In the moment, everything that comes to mind may seem terrible to you. One way to break the stalemate is to write something terrible. It’s not like you have to release it to others. I find my emotional state can greatly impact my perception of my writing. If you make yourself write something you think is bad, you may come back to it later and discover some worthwhile pieces in what you wrote. Even if you don’t, you may learn something new about your world in the process. Worst case scenario, you scrap the entire thing. That doesn’t put you any farther back than if you hadn’t written at all. If you think you can’t write anything good, I encourage you to give it a try nonetheless!

Those are all the tips I had in mind for today. I hope you found something in my post helpful; please let me know if you did, or if you think my advice is awful, or any of your thoughts about Writer’s Block. All constructive feedback is welcome! Bye-bye for now!

 

Looking for Beta Readers for The Sapphire of Sacrifice

Hiyo, everyone! I’m just posting here to more visibly announce the the book I’m writing, The Sapphire of Sacrifice, is still in need of beta readers! If you’re interested in learning a little more about the book, click this. Feel free to¬†contact me if you’re potentially interested or just want to know more about what being a beta reader entails.

That’s all for today! Thanks for reading, and have fun!