Monday, September 29, 2014

Are we having fun yet?

Which type of character is more fun to write: villain or hero (in the classic sense of the word)?

by Meredith Cole

Characters should be fun to write--no matter what their role is in your story. When I find myself feeling bored when I write a character (especially a hero that I've made too, well, blah), I have to ask myself what I can expect my poor reader to feel? Boring to write means, of course, boring to read.

Although it's tons of fun to write a villain that is so amazingly over the top bad that he chews up the scenery and spits it out, I think characters need to be a little more realistic to be believable. I sometimes have to be reminded that every villain is a hero in his or her own story. They have a reason for trying to "get" our hero, or for killing people or for whatever nefarious deeds they are doing. We may not think their reason is just, but they have to have one.

I enjoy reading complex characters, and so I attempt to create them in my own books. It's never easy to do, though. Give a hero too many quirks and flaws, and they can become annoying and unlikeable. Give a villain too much of a sympathetic story line and people start to wonder if there's been some kind of a mistake. So like sugar, fats and exercise, moderation is the key to everything. And keeping it fun, so you don't just give up and go read a book by someone else.

Oh--and I did a fun event Saturday at Stone Soup in Waynesboro with fellow Sisters in Crime "Virginia is for Mysteries" anthology writers Rosemary Shoemaker and Linda Thornburg. Here's a photo of us on the bookstore patio:


Paul D. Marks said...

Lots of good points, Meredith. I especially like what you said about giving the hero too many quirks and flaws. Some people think that is "character," but it's really just superficial character traits. The real depth of the character involves so many other things.

Meredith Cole said...

Thanks Paul! A big pet peeve of mine is when the writer makes the hero too good at too many things. The person starts to not feel real to me...

Susan C Shea said...

I've been thinking about how far over the top writers can go with characters before we readers fall back to Earth. Is there a limit, even in a farce like the one I've been reading, before the cliches overwhelm the story and drown the plot? Good topic, Meredith - thanks!

Meredith Cole said...

Great comment, Susan. I think it's so easy to see in someone else's work--and probably much harder to see in our own!