Hi everyone!! I’m so excited to be bringing you the fourth installment of the blog series Insights of the Writes. Today, we have another Q&A, centering around CHARACTERS.
On the Google Form that I took these questions from, I asked: What do you want to know about Character? — (This can be anything from crafting a strong motivation to point of views (POVs) to the different archetypes)
Well…you asked and I answered! Here are 3 wonderful questions asked through the form about characters, and my 3 writing insights. Enjoy!!
What are some of your best tips for crafting three-dimensional characters? (Ash @ Starlight Strands)
Excellent question! I would say that three dimensional characters generally have four pillars to them. The first is their motivation. The second is their strength. The third is their flaw. The fourth is the reason we root for them.
Without these pillars, we only have a paper character rather than a fully fleshed out one of blood and bone. As human beings, we all have motivations, strengths, and flaws—what we hope to achieve, how we get there, and the obstacles we unconsciously create for ourselves. So it only makes sense that the best characters will have these traits, for us as an audience to accept them as “real people” rather than just a figment of the author’s imagination.
We should also have a reason to root for these characters. This shouldn’t be explicitly stated, but implied—for example, they’ve been chasing this dream for years, they’ve had all sorts of bad luck, etc. This will make us want to follow them through their journey and stick with them when they make good choices, and even faulty decisions. While most of us don’t lead a life that is constantly followed by others, our characters are much more vulnerable in that their inmost thoughts are revealed upon the pages (even if it’s not in first person), so it’s best we associate with them real fast!!
I think I’d enjoy reading about how to design a convincing character such that they’re realistic, maybe relatable and fitting to the story. (Introverted Thoughts @ Random Specific Thoughts)
Marvelous question! What I love about this question is that we can now discuss how a cast of characters and their backgrounds must tie in to their story’s theme. For example, a story about famine that centers on a princess who has never gone hungry before wouldn’t make sense at all (the severe juxtaposition was done on purpose!).
I want to look at two cases—the first, where the characters’ backstories fit the theme, and the second, where the characters’ backstories can comfortably juxtapose with the theme.
For the first case, if the story is about revenge and loyalty, it would make sense to have characters who have been betrayed and characters who have betrayed. Receiving a betrayal leads to revenge, and enacting a betrayal ties in questions of loyalty. You could see how that would go, Character A betraying Character B for Character C…we have three points of view to consider!
For the second case, if a story is about emphasizing the power of hope, a compelling character could have had a tragic backstory, but their growth or ideals are inclined towards hope for the future and hope for the years to come. I’m thinking along the lines of Anne of Green Gables—while Anne has gone from home to home feeling like she never truly belonged, that doesn’t stop her from hoping, and in time, her influence shapes the growth of other characters as well. Just one of the reasons why she’s one of my favorite characters of all time!
This in mind, if you want to explore with this pinch of juxtaposition, be careful that it doesn’t contrast too sharply with your themes, else it will be unrealistic!
I definitely would like to know more about crafting a good POV. (Cari @ All Creatures Great and Small)
Lovely question! I’m sure we’ve all heard of point of views (POVs). First person (where the narrator is usually the main character and uses terms like “I” “we” and “me”). Second person (where the readers are encouraged to step into the characters’ shoes through usage of “you”). Third person (where an outside narrator observes the actions of the characters with some degree of insight into their thoughts).
Each of these POVs have pitfalls to avoid but great advantages. But for this post, I’ll look at this more generally and bring in the concept of deep POV. (Don’t worry—if you do have further questions about the specific POVs after reading, do feel free to comment them to me and I’ll do my best to answer!)
The pleasant thing about deep POV is that it can be molded to serve all sorts of POVs and the various tenses (present, past). According to Well-Storied, “What defines a certain type of storytelling as being written in Deep POV is its subjective nature, distinct character voice, and limited marks of authorship” (bold emphasis mine).
Let’s break those three terms down, shall we?
First, subjective nature. If you look up what subjectivity means, you will see that it is defined as “the quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions”. As much as we sometimes try to remain objective and logical, we are generally conditioned to be subjective about many things, like fashion or food (while a piece of clothing may look fancy, will it keep you warm? will eating too much of that delicious food be healthy in the long run?). So it makes sense that in stories, characters will see the world and what happens to them through a subjective lens, based on their fears and flaws.
Second, a distinct character voice. You know that feeling when a song comes on, and without looking at the title or singer, you just know who sang it? And when you check, you’re correct? Well, chances are that that singer has a distinctive style to their voice that allows you to recognize them amidst many others. We want to accomplish the same thing with our characters. There are too many books out there to count, so what makes your character’s voice stand out? By writing in deep POV, readers will gain access to a character’s inner hopes and desires and fears, and it is crucial that as a writer, you are able to 1) ensure consistency with their internal conflict and outward actions and 2) show how their motivations, strengths, and flaws have influenced their way of thinking.
Finally, limited marks of authorship. This is where we draw the line between you, the writer, and your character. As avid readers and writers will know, characters may only have a home on the page (or eventually the screen, if they are fortunate) but their influence goes beyond that. Treating characters like real people will help you so much in crafting them and their place in your story. Because there are readers out there who will see themselves in your characters, and themes they will try and apply to their own lives. This is one of the ways books can be absolutely life changing. Beautiful, isn’t it?
I know I didn’t go into the more specifics of how exactly to do all this, but I highly recommend these two articles from Well-Storied. While I would have loved to go more into depth about these topics, for the sake of this post, I didn’t want to overwhelm us!!
And…that’s a wrap!!
A big thank you to Ash, Introverted Thoughts, and Cari for your amazing questions, I enjoyed answering them, and hope that you and everyone else reading were able to take away some key insights!!
Have a wonderful week, lovelies, and have fun writing!!