Questions 3: It’s About Characters

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Characters are essential to the story.  Their existence answers the question of ‘Who is this happening to’ when one follows the events.  They give the reader a POV to use as a reference point.  They bring life to the setting and move the plot, which are the other two elements.  Many authors also simply love designing characters because they can hold various traits that one might yearn for or be curious about.  There’s so much to do with this element that it’s hard to narrow it down to 3 questions.  Here we go anyway:

  1. What is your favorite type of character to write/read?
  2. Is there a type of character you’ve tired and failed to write/understand?
  3. What advice would you give about writing characters?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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24 Responses to Questions 3: It’s About Characters

  1. L. Marie says:

    1. I tend to like a self-deprecating character. The kind of character Sandra Bullock would have played in the early days of her career. I also like some snarky ones. Like the character Julia Stiles played in 10 Things I Hate About You.
    2. I’m not much of a sports person, so I tend to avoid jock characters, though they are totally necessary for school stories. I simply can’t fake knowledge.
    3. Go below the surface—beyond cliches and wish fulfillment. Take time to create believable dialogue.

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  2. – My favorite type of character to write/read is the one who has some common sense and reacts to the storyline much like ordinary people. I’m not too fond of superheroes to show up where they are out of place.
    – A type of character I’ve tried and failed to write was a psychotic killer. I didn’t have the creative chops to pull it off since I had no experience with or understanding of that type.
    – My advice about writing characters is to understand why they are doing what they are doing entirely. It is easy to create a cardboard character but to round that character out, there has to be motivation for every move. It may be simple like hunger or more complex like vengeance, but it should be understood by the writer.

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  3. I’m getting more and more into over-the-top characters. Those types leave a lot of room for a character arc. Could be ego that gets taken out, or prejudices that get overcome, but something. I don’t think I could ever be a romance writer, and that’s too bad. Some of that plays well with the emotional journey. Any advice would involve giving them genuine needs and wants. Those could change fast depending on the kind of story.

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  4. Staci Troilo says:

    1. What is your favorite type of character to write/read?
    I like to read and write villains. Not the “evil for the sake of evil” kind, but the multi-layered, psychologically-twisted kind.

    2. Is there a type of character you’ve tried and failed to write/understand?
    I haven’t failed at this because I haven’t really tried it yet, but I’d like to explore the unreliable narrator more.

    3. What advice would you give about writing characters?
    People watch. Study well developed television and film characters. Read a lot of quality books. Then practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at something is to study it, then work at it.

    Fun food for thought, Charles. Thanks.

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  5. Jan Sikes says:

    I like to write and read multi-dimensional characters and flawed characters. They need to have something to work toward, a way to become a better person. Great questions.

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  6. Beem Weeks says:

    My favorite type of character to write/read is the flawed, dangerous type. But written in such a way that readers will still care about the character despite the flaws and bad choices made.

    I don’t think there’s a character I’ve failed to write/understand. Human nature is the common trait among us. I’ve not written a serial killer yet. That might be a difficult mindset to comprehend. It would require a lot of research.

    My advice for writing characters is, make them real. Give your characters flaws, quirks, and unlikable traits–even if the character is otherwise loveable. Humans are not perfect. Throw in a limp, or a lisp that becomes pronounced when the character is nervous or excited. Base your character on one or more real people, pulling from those personalities items useful in your story.

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    • I’ve wondered about the ‘make them real’ thing. Not that it’s a bad thing. Just odd that many readers will get annoyed at the flaws. Yet others get upset with perfect heroes. I’m working on a hero who could be defined as autistic. I’ve had more people tell me not to do this than support them idea because they think the character would be too flawed.

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  7. Mae Clair says:

    1. My favorite type of characters to write are those with emotional baggage. Characters who are flawed. They’re also usually my favorite type of character to read with the exception of one or two series characters I follow who don’t fit that bill.

    2. I don’t think I could do someone living in another country justice so I normally avoid trying.

    3. Make your character three dimensional. Don’t just prod the surface but dig deep to what makes the person tick and what motivates their actions. That usually involves fleshing out a backstory that doesn’t always make it onto the page but which the author knows in their head.

    Cool post, Charles!

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  8. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    I like to read and write strong female characters of any age.
    Can’t say there is a character I can’t find a way to understand if writing them. If I don’t understand I won’t write them.
    They have to be real to the writer is the advice I come up with.
    Good questions and post 🙂

    Like

  9. Gwen M. Plano says:

    I enjoy writing characters that share many of the traits I find around me. Much like Denise, if I don’t understand a character, I’m not going to write about him/her. Thank you, Charles.

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