When Characters Are Perfect People
“I’m going to create the man [or woman] of my dreams in my book!”
Does this sound familiar? Perhaps it reflects your thoughts when you first sat down to write. It’s what I thought. I had a wonderful idea for a story rattling around in my head for years. When I finally tried writing it, I created the perfect woman and the perfect man for her to love. *Sigh*
That’s how it turned out. Disgusting! Terrible! Boring!
Because real people aren’t perfect! They have flaws and weaknesses. They make mistakes. They choose the wrong thing sometimes. They have to face the consequences of their actions. They drive you crazy, even if you love them–or especially if you love them!
Characters have to be real or they are unrelatable. Readers tune out when characters aren’t like them. I’m not talking about having the same color of eyes. I’m talking about tragedies they’ve gone through like the death of a loved one, divorce, bullying, poor choices that harmed someone...anything a reader can relate to.
Then readers need to see the character grow and learn from their mistakes. This is called a character arc. It shows readers that they can overcome their obstacles and grow and become something more. Just like the characters in their books. That’s a real character.
Characters also need a background–a life before, that shaped them.
Remember the old Smurf cartoons? The introduction says, “They call themselves Smurfs. They were good. Then there was Gargamel, the evil wizard. He was bad.”
For no apparent reason, The Smurfs are good and Gargamel is bad.
What happened in Gargamel’s childhood or youth that made him bad? Why does he hate Smurfs? Why are the Smurfs good? Have none of them ever done anything wrong?
Who knows? They’re just bad and good. And that’s that.
While that may be fun for a children’s cartoon, it doesn’t fly for creating real characters. There has to be a reason for who they are, what they do, what choices they make, who they like, and who they hate.
Make your characters real. Bring them to life. Make them relatable. Give them a background that makes them who they are (even if you don’t tell it in full to readers). Show the characters struggling, learning, and growing. Show how they change and improve themselves through their challenges.
Then you will have dynamic characters that readers will love.
Written by Allison Brown