Breaking Points: Looking for Weak Spots in Your Characters - article

Oh the joy of creating a new world filled with oddities and gizmos to wonder the imagination. The thought of all the possibilities and events that can take place in the mind are, well, mind-boggling. But what about the inhabitants of said new world? What is it about them that make them special enough to exist in this wonderful place?

Your characters are the players who will endear your audience to here, and without a strong standing can actually take away from its magnificence. So what can you do as the author to avoid creating what’s referred to as “weak” characters?

Start with your main characters and ask yourself, “Do they have a solid back story?” Is your main character clearly motivated enough to warrant the audience’s desire to see them through to the end of this tale? Without clear goals or motivation your main character might as well just be part of the supporting cast. You should take extra time when planning out your storyline to carefully craft your lead’s biography. Even if you don’t use every element of it, the fact that it’s there can help you to make interesting decisions for them.

Another shortfall for the characters in your epic tale is whether or not they’re even necessary. You never want to write someone into your storyline because you think they’re cool. They need to help move the story forward. If they are not accomplishing that then they need to exit stage left.
What are some of the other things you need to keep an eye out for? Well, be sure that the character you’re focusing on doesn’t all of a sudden gain unexplained knowledge without you and the reader knowing how they came by that knowledge. This is very confusing to the reader who may abandon your story altogether.

Your characters are only what your audience has been told about them. Any behavior that is out of the ordinary is going to have readers questioning what’s going on and take them out of your world and thrown them back into their own. And now you’ve lost them, maybe forever.

A final word on flawed characters is on those stereotypical ones that we’ve all seen a million times with their oh-so-perfectly designed arcs. If you have a place for one of these characters, make sure you tear them apart in your development stage and reassemble them with some original quirks. Make it something like the cute cheerleader who transforms at night into that villainous vampire slayer Buffy.

One last note: stay away from perfect characters who have no flaws. They’re boring, and boring is bad.

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