1. Lightning
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    Lightning Member

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    What makes a character 'awesome'?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lightning, Apr 9, 2012.

    Hello there!

    I'm currently writing my first novel (and hoping to get it published). I have the plot etc more-or-less sorted, but there's a nagging thought on my mind.

    You know how in certain books you simply think to yourself "This character's epic!" or "I hate this guy." or "She's awesome!" etc? Well I just wanted to know how that happens and how to do it. I have some characters that I think are pretty legendary, but most people who sample my book just say that they 'liked' or 'disliked' the character and nobody ever says that they thought they were 'amazing' etc.

    I was hoping that you could help me make my character's more epic, thanks :)
     
  2. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    Everyone has their own ideas on what constitutes awesome. What attributes made characters so cool you thought of them as awesome. The trick often is not having them come off as so great no one can relate to them or the seem arrogant. Unless of course you want to do it in a humorous vein like Temperance Brennan in the Bones series. The yes I'm really good but I'm not going to through it in your face type of attitude.
     
  3. RowenaFW
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    RowenaFW Member

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    If it helps, everybody I know who has read the book raves about the character of the girl in "Girl with a Dragon Tattoo" and sequels. From what they say, she sounds like a character I wouldn't be able to tolerate at all, but I haven't read the book - they have.
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    My main character is awesome, but of course I'd say that - most writers think their own creations are awesome. I don't know how to explain what makes him awesome in my eyes - something to do with him being flawed and human, but still trying to do his best and live by his principles, whatever it costs him. He's by no means perfect and rightly comes in for criticism at times, but he does occasionally perform feats of true heroism - before messing up again and needing to put everything right. He's just an ordinary man who rises to deal with extraordinary circumstances - he comes out on top but not without losing what he values most. To me, his courage and strength of character is awesome.
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the most "awesome" characters are those who have an interesting outlook on life. Awesome items, like a fancy sword or unique clothing might hook readers for a scene or two, but the character's way of thinking is what will make a lasting impression. Some of the most memorable people in real life aren't remembered solely for what they did or said, but for their philosophy.

    Sun Tzu's thoughts on war. Martin Luther King and Ghandhi's thoughts on peace and equality. Renee Descartes's thoughts on science, knowledge, and existence. Macchiavelli's thoughts on leadership and competition. These people are all remembered for the views they embodied, not just for what they did.
     
  6. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    I love her! :p

    In my opinion, a great character needs great adversity to overcome, and they can't be perfect. They shouldn't overcome adversity easily- that's not entertaining. That makes the character seem too perfect. As a reader, I actaully get jealous of characters who are too perfect, and I concentrate on wishing for them to fail rather than rooting for them to succeed. Characters need to overcome adversity with difficulty, flaws and all.(Being clumsy doesn't count as a flaw. Neither does having a poor singing voice- a flaw is something that a character does worse than most people. Lots of people have bad singing voices, for example, so that doesn't count.) If you see your character's flaw, and your opinion of them doesn't change, it isn't a big enough flaw.

    For example, my male character loses every fight he gets into, and he questions his manliness because of that and because of his general fear of people. He has next to no confidence. However, he's still able to overcome every obstacle in his way through unique means and a bucketload of determination. He sucks at small-talk, but has no trouble talking about meaningful things. He's reluctant to take credit for his successes, though, and emphasizes the roles of his allies above his own. In many ways, he lives in self-inflicted misery.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I throw rocks at my my main character, then set him on fire, and once in a while try to drown him. Why? Because he's clueless in a plethora of vipers. The boy has got to do some real soul searching.

    I think most of us are clueless. I've known only one 'awesome' person in my whole life. According to he, himself, there are so many saloon stories floating around about him, even he doesn't know where facts stop and fantasy begins.

    That's the problem with pedestals. A painful, worthless climb, then a pointless drop to your death.
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Awesome can be something different for each reader. Make your characters people readers can identify with - not necessarily characters they can see themselves as, but as people they've known. Then add a little, so they aren't 'ordinary'. (And that, of course, depends on what genre you're writing in. Fantasy obviously can handle a bit more than a murder mystery.)

    Personally, I detest 'awesome' characters - I just can't believe in them (or I want to tear them down). :p
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Joining me on 'The Group W Bench' today? Either my image will rise, or yours will fall.

    (However, I agree with you!)
     
  10. sam80
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    sam80 Member

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    Great and memorable characters need to be multi faceted. If the MC is actually kind of bad, is there any streaks of compassion or vulnerability, if the MC is all in all good, does he/she have flaws. I think making a good character relate-able makes them a great character.
     
  11. sam80
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    Also who are your favourite characters, why have they stood out in your mind.....
     
  12. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I don't necessarily agree with this - you can admire someone despite their flaws. My character's flaw is his temper - especially with regard to jealousy. He can be the most calm, logical and reasonable person in the world when it comes to his job, but insult his honour or hit on his woman, and you better duck and cover. He can also be a sulky little bastard when he thinks he has been slighted or not got what he wants. I guess that comes of being the pampered only son of a wealthy lord :D

    Just because I don't think any less of him for these flaws, does it mean they're not significant enough?
     
  13. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    double post
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think Ernest Hemingway created some awesome characters. Pilar, in For Whom The Bell Tolls, is an amazing character - she's strong, smart, brave, but utterly uneducated and illiterate. She kind of takes over the leadership of a small band of guerrillas from her lover, Pablo (who is also an awesome character - smart and capable, but he's selfish and his courage has failed him).

    I have a few characters I really love. One is a loudmouthed, egotistical teenaged boy who suddenly finds his world collapsing around him and he doesn't know how to deal with it. Another is an old wandering minstrel in an alternate history landscape (I took my user name here partly from his profession).

    I don't think of an awesome character as a pure, stainless hero. Almost nobody is a pure, stainless hero. To be awesome, a character has to LIVE in your imagination, warts and all.
     
  15. Just Jon
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    I think the most awesome characters are ones that can do what we cannot (or will not) do, given the circumstances they are placed in. Fighting when its easier to flee. Standing up for the underdog in the face of greater adversary. Trying over and over again, despite repeated failure. Seeing the truth, when no one else can. Accepting challenges that life has handed them, when giving up would be perfectly acceptable.

    Any other abilities or traits (extreme beauty, superhuman strength, mental telepathy, x-ray vision, the aforementioned fancy sword, etc.) are simply icing on the cake that decorate an already awesome character.
     
  16. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    That's not really what I meant. You don't have to think less of the character, but your opinion of someone changes if a flaw is significant- even if you admire them more for overcoming adversity, or something, your opinion has still changed.
     
  17. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My issue with these flaws is that they're flaws of power - they represent things that he can get away with because he's so powerful. So in a way, they emphasize his advantages. To me, they'd only have meaning if they resulted in a serious cost - for example, if that nasty temper resulted in him being disinherited and losing his rank and privileges.

    ChickenFreak
     
  18. RowenaFW
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    This, of course, is your problem.

    You know what? I hate this in a character. It's such a cliched "bravity" that I often see the character who fights instead of fleeing as not really knowing whether it's better to fight or flee, nor caring, and acting merely on the motivation that it is heroic and grand and manly to fight instead of flee, so they have to - or face themselves as a 'failure'. The characters I admire are the ones who will turn round and say, No, I don't have to fight, because I don't have to pander to that social expectation. It would not advantage me to fight, as I am likely to lose. Let's find another way to solve the problem.

    Even if they don't. Even if they can't. Even if they end up in a fight they didn't want to be in. To me, a truly awesome character is one who doesn't care whether they are awesome or not, who doesn't do anything which might let you believe they do (often authors write characters who look like they want to believe they're awesome, and then inform you that they don't, often repeatedly. This just gives the author less credibility in my eyes - let your character speak for themselves).

    The only time a character has fought instead of fleed and I thought it was honourable, and was impressed, was when Del Boy lets himself get beaten up by the Driscoll brothers in 'Only Fools and Horses' after he messed up a deal, so that he can keep him promise to give Rodney the money for his flat deposit.
     
  19. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    Is awesome as in a character is a jedi ninja with a laser gun and a sword and fights zombies with a hot chick or dude? Or awesome as in three dimensional complex character with problems and flaws that the readers can relate and somewhat understand?

    If the latter, I guess I will just go with everyone and tell you: add some flaws in our characters and don't give everything to them easily. I guess flawed characters evoke strong emotions that aren't always love, but everything else is an emotion nevertheless, and that's what I am personally looking for when I write my stories. Which is funny because I don't show them to anyone but... Ok.

    Edit:
    Preach it, sweetie.
    Courage =/= recklessness and Not fighting when it's safer to do so =/= cowardice
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    How awesome a character appears to the reader doesn't rely so much on the character, as it does on the overall quality of your writing. That's why you should concentrate on writing an extremely compelling narrative, that will make your character look awesome and epic and whatnot.
     
  21. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Yes, I totally agree - if a flaw doesn't incur significant cost to the character, it's not so much a flaw as a quirk. Having a temper isn't a problem if everyone lets you get away with it because you're all powerful. But having a temper that makes you alienate your loved ones - or piss off someone you really, really shouldn't upset because it's going to come back and bite you in the ass in a very big way - is a major flaw. Any self destructive trait is a major flaw. In which case I'd say my MC is pretty flawed. :D

    Can someone be awesome in their amazing capacity to be a total jerk at times?
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Maybe I'm too "old school," but I tend to look at a lead character as a mundane clown, a real Joe Lunchbox.

    I look at the story as more of a 'quest.' As the story unfolds, dozens of people around this lead fail, get killed or simply give up. The story is what makes this "everyman" keep going, overcome adversity, and make a success out of the ending.

    In doing that, he becomes awesome. But he's no great shakes when the story opens.
     
  23. Rebel Yellow
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    Rebel Yellow Active Member

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    If your character is rounded and people can relate to him, he will be awesome to them. Concordantly, his values will be more important than his powers.
     
  24. suddenly BANSHEES
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    Why not both? :p

    As others have been saying, it's important to make your character relatable, no matter what kind of person they are.

    As far as "awesome" people go, it definitely depends on the reader. Personally, I find the most "awesome" characters are the ones who don't seem to give much of a crap, at least in regards to certain things.
    In the TV show, Sherlock, their version of Sherlock Holmes will say snarky things about people, right in front of them - he doesn't filter himself to being polite, because he doesn't care about that. He just wants to get the case solved. Or in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod just went and did whatever the hell he wanted, because screw you, he's the president of the galaxy.

    Some readers might find that sort of thing annoying, but there are people who find it appealing. Don't expect to please absolutely everyone.
     
  25. Dan Kirkalnd
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    Dan Kirkalnd Member

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    To me an awesome character is someone who has a trait that is desirable to me. If I want to be like that character I will like him/her more, therefore making the relationship that much more enjoyable.
     

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