Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Characters: Heroes - Part Two

Character Series
Part 10: Heroes - Part 2
Finally, part two of the Heroes blog post, lets begin:


Relationships With Other Characters

You should use your profiles to map how different characters feel about each other too. Different dynamics between different characters are interesting. If everyone just likes or dislikes each other in the same way, characters lose their identity.

In my Lifesphere Inc series, each book is written from the perspective of a different protagonist and they all have very different feelings about each other! The first book is from Eli's POV and he is fiercely loyal to Squall, bored with Cain, threatened by Aquillis and suffers an intense dislike of Locke.

Book two is from Squall's perspective and she is also fiercely loyal to Eli--however she is also aware of his flaws and how they're holding them back as a team. Despite the fact Eli dislikes Locke, Squall and Locke are excellent friends. Likewise, Squall spends a lot of her time with Cain and enjoys his company. She's infatuated with Aquillis and not very comfortable around him.

I have to remember who's head I am in all the time. I can't let Eli's feelings for Locke show when I am writing Squall's point of view. I also can't let MY feelings for characters affect how they interact with one and other.

Failure & Empathy

A character who does everything easily and always succeeds is both unrealistic and very boring to read about. If you find yourself writing those characters, you are probably creating a kind of wish fulfilment for yourself—writing about the sort of person you wish you were, without taking reader’s interests into consideration.

Maybe you are worried your character won’t seem ‘cool’ or ‘impressive’ if he fails. When you fail, you feel ashamed or embarrassed and you imagine a reader will look on failing character with scorn. However the deciding factor in a reader feeling intense empathy or scorn for a character is not in their results, rather, their motivation for taking the action.

Let’s say we have a young boy and he attempts to steal money. He is caught and imprisoned.

How do you feel about that?

What if he was stealing the money because his mother was dying and he wanted to buy medicine. He’d never tried to steal before, but he had run out of people to ask for help. It was a desperate, last ditch effort and his failure will cost his mother her life. While he waits in the cell, he knows she is dying, alone.

How about if he stole the money because he wanted a new phone? His old phone is fine, but the dorky kid in his class got a better one for his birthday last week and he can’t stand a dork having better gear than him. Thankfully, his father will come and bail him out of the cell. He should be home by dinner.

As you can see, it’s not the actions or the failure that alters our opinion, it is the MOTIVATION. Failure can make a reader empathize a lot more, after all, we all fail at times. Its only human.

Darkest Moments

What is a darkest moment? The darkest moment is when your main character has failed, everything looks lost and it seems there is no way the book can have a happy conclusion. Emotionally, it is the lowest point of the novel. In most emotional arcs, it will happen between the middle and final third of the book, with everything afterwards focusing on the final rise to conclusion. It will also likely be your villains highest point--they believe they have won. Secondary characters may have their lowest point at other points in the story, however your protagonists lowest point should be the worst, the one the reader feels the most deeply.

How dark can you go? You should make your darkest moment as dark as you can, while still bringing the reader back with you to the conclusion. The more skill you have as a writer, the darker you can go. You want to push the reader to their emotional limits (within the context of the genre and target audience), but you also need to be able to bring them back up and have them where you want them for the final scene. If you can't bring them back up and leave them feeling satisfied, they won't put the book down eager to read your next work.

Your character's darkest moment may also be the point they make the wrong choice. They do the selfish thing and walk away from what matters. Again, how badly they fail may depend on how skilled you are at redeeming them. Though not all heroes have to turn their back and do something evil to make a darkest moment powerful.

The most important thing to remember is the darkest moment is a turning point. It's the first step in redemption.

The difference between a hero and a villain:

A hero may do the wrong thing, but he does it for the right reasons. Maybe in his darkest moment he does the wrong thing for the wrong reason—or the right thing for the wrong reason—however at the critical moment the hero makes the right decision. He grows, he sacrifices, and he is selfless.

The other difference between the hero and the villain is that the villain has more resources. If your hero is more powerful than your villain, he's not a hero. He's a bully. The hero has to be the underdog in some way.

If I steal candy from a baby it's not a great victory, I'm just an asshole.

NEXT WEEK, we look at villains and how to craft one that will have your readers squealing for more.

The previous parts of the character development blog series can be found here:

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