Saturday, 17 September 2011

Big Bold and Whacky

A Perfect Hero?

In deciding on a /hero/protagonist in my thriller writing, I always try to go for a character who seems to be larger than life; in other words a memorable character. Whether I succeed or not is, of course, up to the reader but I do think long and hard about what he or she is - as a person.
The most memorable characters in classic literature are usually big, bold and maybe a little whacky. They are generally beset by inner conflict and most certainly have to deal with outward conflict/tension as befits the story.  The hero is striving for something: He either desperately needs something or must accomplish something to save others. But he is thwarted by the antagonist (evil one) along the way. This may make certain character traits more inevitable than others. For example a willingness to persevere despite all the odds is often a trait that many story hero’s share. So that their persistence eventually pays off at the end of the story.
But I think it goes much deeper than that. If a character has a certain trait it must be believable and come from somewhere in their past. This is where I find doing background stories so fascinating.
For example, a hero may be dogged because he learnt early in life that staying the course pays off. Maybe his father was a patient fisherman and taught him likewise. Or he may have had to stand up to bullies over and over again in defence of a mild-mannered friend. All similar incidences go into my background memoire of the character and some may even end up in the story.
I try to make my hero/character imperfect, faulty and with some human frailties as well as admirable traits that my reader can root for.  In this way I can make the transformation at the end of the story, much more realistic. I think this enables the reader to identify with and empathise with the main character. After all no one is perfect.
So how do you decide what kind of person your main character will be? Do you do background stories or wing it as you go along?

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  1. I have to say, the kind of hero/ heroine is usually dictated by my plot. I try to choose characters that would really clash with the plot.

  2. I think beginnings/backstory are what fascinate me about myths. Love it when a hero finds out one of his parents was a god or goddess. I am a fan of Joseph Campbell's hero journey structure.

  3. I love playing around with my characters. I like to give my good guys flaws and my baddies lots of good traits. After all, there's good and bad in all of us.

    I can't start writing a character until I know his/her background.

  4. I usually know what personality they have, but I don't always find out why until later :-)

  5. Thanks very much for the comments, peeps! Characters are such fun, aren't they?

  6. I don't follow a set way of character creation. They tend to tell me what they are like. Often their environment is a big factor and I work backwards from there. (If that makes sense)

  7. I do a little bit of both b/c sometimes the best ideas come as I'm writing.

  8. I can't start writing a character until I know their background. I do up sheets with all sorts of information about them, what they look like, what they like and don't like, who their family is, etc. I love creating characters. By the way, I read 'The Witcheye Gene' - Nice job, Pat. It's a great read.