1. Annalise_Azevedo
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    Annalise_Azevedo Member

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    What makes a Character interesting?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Annalise_Azevedo, Jul 11, 2014.

    I've read my share of original stories/TV shows and sometimes I love the characters or I absolutely hate them.

    In my opinion, I like the kind of characters that are broken or they have the small flaws that make them human (or normal at least). Like for example, my MC has a fear of fire and doesn't get over it unless in the presence of her best friend and another example would be from another story, where the hot-headed MC has a fear of bugs (though that's used more in a comical sense.) But she really just wants to see her mum again.

    However despite I like making them, I also have a terrible habit of not developing some characters. If their roles are minor I try not to worry about it but if they're in the novel at least for a few good chapters, I would like to give them small quirks to make them good characters.

    So in your opinions, what do you think makes a good character?
     
  2. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    What makes stories interesting is the characters so a lot of wwwork has to be put into creating real characters and avoid Mary Sues and John Stus. Humans are complicated and that's what makes them interesting.

    Think of it this way; a human is directed by three principles:

    Ego - What the body wants it gets. It craves food, it is fed regardless of the food source, it is hurt it will let you know you're hurt until it stops, and it will make certain things possible, impossible, or plain hard for no good reason. It's the one thing you can never truly control in your life except in odd cases of influence.

    Politic - This is the part of a human that controls how to deal with others based on experience, knowledge, and reward/consquence clauses. Such as "If I hit this man and steal his apples, I will get apples and satisfy my Ego" and then decide on whether the ramifications are convinient enough to escape reprisal or whether reprisal would be worth the trouble.

    Philosoph - This is the part of you that deals with superior needs and deals more with internal belifs and art. It is what makes you believe in morals and ethics, on how to behave, on what you like and don't like in terms of physical things like food or metaphysical things like puppy mills.

    The ego is always respected as it is what supports the existence of the latter two. Without it, they'd die so they give in to its wims and rarely ever supercede it.

    Philosoph and Politic hardly ever agree with one another, being the maoin cause of any internal dilemas. Such as "It's wrong to hit the man and steal his apples" and Politic would say "But he won't know who did it and it would benefit me without consequence".

    In every situation, Politic and Philosoph try to influence the body as well to make it enjoy or hate certain things. Such as Philosoph saying "Apples are tasty, you should desire them" and thus the Ego will be more likely to crave and enjoy apples while Politic will tell it to smile when there is reason to be mad just because it keeps situation from getting worse. Ego will adapt and change accordingly until it becomes reflexive.

    Humans are fundamentally interesting in their hearts, because of all the contradictions and hypocricy it goes through as it aims for different goals in different ways but ultimately wanting to satisfy the highest influential factors of Philosoph and Politic all the while Ego slowly gets beaten down and weakened with every struggle.

    So yeah.. humanity.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2014
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  3. J Faceless
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    J Faceless Active Member

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    I try to make my characters as real as possible. So even if its a certain trait, interest or flaw its based off a real person I know. For example I have a character who is very strict and law abiding, overly so. Like he wouldn't go near drugs or alcohol. He doesn't do this for moral or legal reasons it's because his parents were addicts and outlaws.
    I used a friends personality and similar situation as inspiration for this character.
     
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  4. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    For me it's the hidden depths, the things that people try to conceal about themselves.
     
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  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    For me, it's all about how the writer handles the character. There's nothing inherently special or interesting about a character's beliefs, actions, etc. It's the writer's job to make these things special or interesting in some way (through conflict, for example). Faulkner's characters are fairly uninteresting if you look at them outside the context of the works they're in. There's nothing special about them, yet Faulkner finds a way to get readers interested in the characters' lives and problems. On the flip side, you have characters in Twilight that possess supernatural abilities, but I found them uninteresting even in context.
     
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  6. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    No such thing as a bad character. All characters are simply characters. Just as there are all kinds of people in the world, there are also all kinds of characters. Labeling a character as bad because he or she has no apparent flaws or no character development is just bias relative to the story.

    Now as for what makes a character interesting, they are ones that are strong, smart, resolute, decisive, and aware of the people and environment around them. Characters that can make their weaknesses seem non-existent, take control of a situation, and is not always hindered by flaws, indecision, or mental blocks get more done. An interesting and entertaining character is one that shows what he or she can do, rather than what he or she cannot do. Characters that spend much of their time overcoming their weaknesses are predictable and boring.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2014
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  7. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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  8. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    Quirks, distinct personality, issues and their acts of nobility or degradation. I've always liked the Dr House character. His obvious shortcomings, lack of social charm (mostly a lack of regard for social charm) and ability to cut to the heart of the matter endear me. Likewise Tyrion Lanister is very House-like. That same tell it like is coupled with definite intelligence is something I like in rogues. Both show an internal strength that is admirable. It's not what's socially lovable about them that makes them great characters. It's the opposite.
     
  9. maskedhero
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    maskedhero Active Member

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    People hate Superman because he is seemingly flawless, and all powerful. Which is boring.

    Flawed characters are interesting, but this can ALSO be taken to an extreme. "That guy also drinks gatorade every day, just because" is pushing quirk for no reason. Everyone being messed up by past experiences, and dwelling on them, can be dreary. Not to say these things don't have a place, but our characters do need something.

    I find that there are different kinds of characters in my works. The big ones need to be complex. They should be, for all intents and purposes, nearly 'people'...the secondary characters matter, and you should know them, but not in and out. The scene-arrivers, people in just one moment, are not important, but even giving them a moment's consideration is important.

    Basically, they don't all need flaws to be interesting, but put your energy into the characters who take up most of the book.
     
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  10. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    To be, a well-drawn character is someone you can imagine in any given situation. They become interesting (or more interesting) when put in situations that conflict with their norm, forcing them to behave in a way that is new or foreign to them.

    I'll use myself as an example - Sheriff Woody in the movie Toy Story is clearly the confident leader. He can deal with problems and lead groups, think on his feet, etc. He's the opposite of Rex, who is cowardly. You can imagine how Woody would behave in any situation because you know his traits and behavior patterns. He is used to being in control. But when a new toy arrives and usurps his status as Andy's favorite toy, Woody is no longer top dog. He is not used to being second best. He is not used to dealing with anyone with more authority than himself. He is not used to being neglected by Andy. All of this internal conflict culminates with him in a situation where he must work with Buzz Lightyear to escape the neighbor's bedroom. Woody needs Buzz's help, but Buzz is distraught after learning he's not the "real" Buzz Lightyear, but just a toy. Woody tells Buzz that he is a cool toy. Great moment of character growth for both Woody and Buzz. They were placed in situations they were not used to and not ready to deal with and were forced to grow and develop. To me, that makes them very interesting to watch.
     
  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Little specific details the reader can latch onto and admire or relate to. It's not one thing or one quirk. It's everything. Gestures, reactions, thoughts, feelings, the five senses. It's a way the character takes things in - and reacts to things. You can give your character a goal like say - slaying a dragon. But if all he's doing is talking about the dragon and everything revolves around the dragon than he becomes one of those flat hero types. But what if the guy is a secret pyro and admires the dragon but he needs to slay him ( as a metaphor for getting rid of his own desire for destruction ) then you've given him a quirk and a hitch in his goal but you still need the little details to bring it all together. The little details will stop the reader from focusing on the pyro part and see him as whatever his name is.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2014
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  12. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Pimples...
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me it's all about their backstory, how they've become who they are today. Usually a broken character intrigues me almost immediately. I don't care as much about quirks - those things are pretty superficial. A 2D cardboard cutout is still a 2D cardboard cutout even if you make them say "What's up?" every time they greet somebody else, or if you make them have a constant craving for cupcakes. If you're writing mindless entertainment - that might well be sufficient. But for anything else, you'd need more. Quirks for me are a small and insignificant detail.

    To give an example, I can't think of any particular quirks Katniss had, and she was utterly human and beautifully done. Wallander by Henning Mankell is another excellent example of realism - he is divorced, diabetic, overweight, and a bit of a failure as a husband, father and lover, and he's always on the verge of giving up and becoming depressed and just throwing in the towel altogether, even though being a detective is his life. None of these are "quirks". But little details that Mankell drops in about Wallander ordering pizza for one and eating it in a silent apartment - all in the space of about 2 sentences at the end of a scene - brings the whole thing to life. Hazel and Gus from Fault in Our Stars didn't have particular quirks either - or if they did, it was well blended into the character as a whole. For the quirk to work, it needs to be so much a part of the character that you don't even know it's there.

    And for this reason I find quirks superficial. If my character has a quirk, he'll have it for a reason or it'll arise naturally as part of the story. But I do not sit down and deliberately think up a quirk for my characters. Another reason is, if I did that, I'd just forget lol.

    Having said all this, my MC has a habit of rubbing his hands when he's nervous, tense, or feeling inadequate - but that's because his hands are scarred, and that's part of the whole backstory that makes him who he is.
     
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  14. Inkwell1
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    Inkwell1 Active Member

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    A character needs to have, like @Mckk so profoundly stated, an interesting backstory. It's gripping and gives the story depth and dimension and something to whirl you into it. Especially if it's a character who is broken. Broken and hides it, broken and doesn't hide it, just broken or breaking. Suffering is horrid, I know, and it is the last thing you want to put the character you've grown to love through, but it gives the reader handgrips on the crazy train titled "Your Story". And suffering is mostly what keeps the reader reading, obsessed with the question, 'what's gonna happen next?". \

    The other part that keeps the reader going is suspense, which can be molded to form their mysterious, shattered past. So I would say, give them a deep, interesting, sorrowful past. Unless you want the focus to be on the MC; then keep the characters light, oblivious to the star's pain (except maybe someone close to the main character).

    Does that make sense? I really don't know, sometimes I'm all mushy and metaphorical and then other times I make as much sense as a button reading 'DO NOT PRESS ME'.
     
  15. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    For me writing interesting characters is all about knowing what makes them tick. It's all about knowing the things they would never do, what it would take to make them do these things and what it would cost the character to do them. For me a character is only interesting if they seem like a real person which means they can't be stereotypical. If you try to fit most people you know to a seryotype you'll find yourself saying "they seem like *insert stereotype here* but...." Personally I think interesting characters are all about how they're different from the reader's expectations. Take me for example back in highschool most people considered me to be a typical nerd, quiet, reserved, interested only in studying but I have other qualities that draw me from the stereotype.
     
  16. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The most foolproof way a character can be interesting is to have a passionate desire for something that is barely out of reach: anything from a physical object to a relationship with a specific person to a better lifestyle to a vision for changing the world.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2014
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  17. Sheriff Woody
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    Sheriff Woody Active Member

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    I came here to add just that.

    Every character (not just the protagonist) should want something and want it BADLY, even if it's just a glass of water. This is the most sure-fire way to generate compelling drama.
     
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  18. Mike Hill
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    Mike Hill Natural born citizen of republic of Finland.

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    Story. That's what makes characters interesting. Why they act the way they act.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I was intrigued by this suggestion. I think this is a particularly helpful one, especially for creating interesting minor characters. Obviously your main character will be a complex human being with all the traits and quirks that the other posters discuss so well in this thread. But a minor one? You still want this character to seem real and to act in a unique way, although you won't be taking time to make a story about him or her. So grab somebody you know and use them as a template.

    This is a wee trick I've done myself on many occasions. Lots of my minor characters have real-life counterparts or inspiration. You can make it interesting for yourself if you occasionally switch gender. Give the middle-aged woman who is working behind the counter at a party store the traits of some middle-aged male you know. There is NO danger that anybody will be 'recognised' in your story if you employ this trick. It also helps to break down gender stereotypes.
     
  20. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    Action snd reaction to events of the plot.
     
  21. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I think there are as many answers to this question as there are people, but characters that develop well along the story are usually the best.
     
  22. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Humanity.

    I mean, what makes your friends interesting?
     
  23. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Or from themselves.:)
     
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  24. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    This is a very good point. I think the key to developing any character is finding a sense of balance. It is absolutely true that a flawless character is boring, but equally boring is one who has one tragedy befall after another.:(

    I can think of books and a few tv shows that suffer from that malady. If you can make it to the end of either one without throwing the thing at the wall it's a goddamn miracle, LOL. There's only so much goodness or badness that any reader can take. So I guess you have to take this into account when constructing characters and their circumstances.
     

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