Characters 101

MaleficentThis month we are discussing characters. When I first started writing my protagonist was all-good, while my antagonist all-bad. My protagonist was a saint, a genius, wealthy, good looking, and great with the ladies, like James Bond or Jack Ryan. But as I wrote these stories I struggled with taking them anywhere. My writing was extremely bland and I thought the problem lied in my plot structure, not my characters.

I guess I was raised on Disney movies where Maleficent was the evil antagonist without a single decent trait contrasted by Princess Aurora that could do no wrong if she tried—nor could Prince Charming.

The other Disney shows followed the same pattern, Snow White and the Evil Queen, Cinderella and the Wicked Step Mother, Ariel and Ursula.

Aladdin, Lion King, and many since have added other dimensions to characters and in my opinion were better stories. Aladdin was a thief, not a “good” profession, but he was kind to the monkey and the children, so we forgave the sin and became more endeared to the character.

The movie Maleficent was incredibly creative. Disney took a character that we learned to hate as children and endeared us to her by adding more dimensions. I think that multi-dimensional characters resonate more with readers. No one that I know is all-good or all-bad. Some might appear that way on the surface, but when you dig in there is always layers that make them real—human.

Series like The Office were successful because of the Characters. Anyone that has seen the show knows exactly what I am saying when I state, “That is so Dwight,” or “That is classic Michael Scott.”

Multi-dimensional characters allow us to go deeper in our stories. We can play off their strengths and weaknesses to deepen plots, relationships, and conflict.

I’m excited to learn from our guest writers and fellow Fictorians this month as we are shown how to better utilize our characters to make a better story.

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