Characters pt. 4
Another important thing to remember about characters is that there is a fine line between flawed and unlikable. Characters need to have flaws because all humans have them. It helps us relate to them, makes them seem more realistic, and gives them room to grow or something to overcome. Overall it simply makes them more interesting. But unless this character is going to be some sort of villain, you also want them to be likable or at least sympathetic, so the audience can root for them. This is a complicated aspect of character creation and not really something I can explicitly tell you how to do, as it’s highly subjective. No matter what you do there will probably be someone out there who doesn’t like your character, but it’s important to TRY to make them likable from your standpoint. Sadly, I have no real technical advice except to keep the idea of likability in the back of your mind. Every so often take a step back and ask yourself if the character is still likable. If you knew them in real life, could you stand to be friends with them?
The great thing about well-conceived characters is, as I said, they’ll do a lot of the work for you. When you’ve got writer’s block and you don’t know what to do, just have the characters decide. They’re the ones IN the story and if you know them as well as you should, you’ll know what they would do next. On the flip side of this, beware of having characters do things that conflict with who they are. When you’ve developed a character really well, trying to force them to do something that doesn’t jibe with their established character will tear down a lot of work you’ve done, probably make them instantly less likable and less believable, and will anger your audience. Suddenly their suspension of disbelief is shattered because your bad writing reminded them that the characters aren’t real and you just made everything up. You’ll be the man behind the curtain with the curtain removed. So bear this in mind, too. You may find midway through writing that the story you plotted no longer fits together with how your characters turned out. In cases like this, under no circumstances should you try to squeeze the characters into your plot just because you already had it planned out. Changing the plot may seem like more work this far into the process, but it is by far the better option. It could easily be the difference between great and horrible characterization.