So, we’re on week 3 of Corrine Jackson’s group writing process series. And this week’s topic is: Deepening Your Characters: What is at the heart of a complex character?

Wait—you mean our characters have to be deep? Um…

Joking, of course. Characters need to have layers, and almost more importantly for me—they need to have flaws. I’m sorry, but being that I’m about a bazillion degrees away from perfect myself (shocking, I know), it’s really hard for me to relate to flawless characters. You know, the ones that are beautiful, rich, have superpowers, get the guy, and gosh darn it, are just flat-out nice. All. The. Time.

All that and she bakes, too?  Kill me  now.

All that and she bakes, too? Kill me now.

Barf.

In fact, I’ll even go a step further. I would much rather read about a deeply flawed character than one without any imperfections. Why? Because the deeply flawed character is a heckuva lot more interesting.

If you don’t believe me, check out Justine Larbalestier’s novel Liar, where her MC Micah is a pathological liar, or Courtney Summer’s Regina in Some Girls Are. As a former high school bully, Regina was hard to relate to at times, and had some major issues. Heck, I didn’t even really *like* her half the time. That said, I finished that book in one sitting and still teared up at least three times.

When I think of some of the most memorable film characters—from Scarlett O’Hara to Forrest Gump to Hans Solo—I can see that they all have flaws. Perfection just isn’t exciting. But character flaws, and how they deal with conflict IN SPITE of them, is.

Smokin.

Smokin'.

So, a complex character is one who has both strengths and flaws, good and bad. Just like a real person—except when it comes to our characters, we get to torture them. Legally.

Ah, torture. That brings us to the book I’m reading, Plot & Structure, and what it has to say on character. Because you can create the most interesting character in the world, but the reader will never know unless you make that character struggle—and change as a result. The character arc, so to speak.

When James Scott Bell talks about characters, he has this to say:
What makes a plot truly memorable is not all of the action, but what the action does to the character. We respond to the character who changes.

To him, I think the heart of a complex character is the ability to change.

Now, go check out Cory’s blog and her links to all the other participating writers’ blogs!

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9 Responses to “How Writers Do it Part 3 (wait–does anyone else think that sounds kinky? No? Hmm….)”

  1. JennW Says:

    Great post and a great quote by Bell. So true about flawed characters and torturing them. I am always stuck on that fine line between making life to easy for them and torturing them too much. Bwahahaha. And I still say your post title is kinky.:)

  2. V Says:

    DAMN, Harrison Ford. Where did those good looks go?

    I second the “deeply flawed” thing. I think that’s important–because sometimes characters have “flaws,” but they’re really minor like “sort of irritating” or “mildly insecure” or “leaves the toilet seat up.” I want my flaws more flaw-y than that. I want them to reach right into the core of the person.

    Also, your tags are hilarious. Snow White should go clubbing with the dwarfs.

  3. T.H. Mafi Says:

    im so disappointed. this has nothing to do with IT.

    where’s the SMEXY??

    (p.s. i love you. and actually, this is great and very informative. tehe.)

  4. Mid-Week Links Round-Up | Absolute Write Says:

    [...] don’t get agents unless they’ve already got an offer? You know where to send ‘em. Debra is writing about characterization, this week, by the way: Characters need to have layers, and almost more importantly for me—they [...]

  5. Jennifer (Herb) Says:

    Flaws, love em. Hate my own but love my characters. And yeah, it sounds kinky :)

  6. Sarah Says:

    Kinky post title… full sized picture of the Hans… YES!!!

    Yes, you know I think flaws are great, as long as it’s not in the “I’m a weak little girl and need some supernatural creature to make me feel better about myself” kinda way. :)

  7. Leila Says:

    Disney Snow White always gave me the creeps as a kid.

    I love your point about a character’s complexity coming from their capacity for change. I’d never really thought about it that way, but so true!

  8. Lydia Says:

    Mm. yes thanks for that photo of Senor Solo. And I love imperfect characters. You want to yell at them sometimes for doing stupid things. Or something like that.

  9. Cory Says:

    I agree with Leila. If a character doesn’t change in some way during a novel, I feel like I’ve wasted my time. I want them to grow or at least have learned something.

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