Friday, July 16, 2010

How to Round a Character

Or, rather, how does one show a softer side of a character meant to be bad-A without making him lose his bad-A-ness?

Answer: I’ll tell you when I figure it out. :O *

I think I can do this, but I’ll have to wait and see. I tend to give myself a lot of new, difficult challenges when writing new stories. Do I do this on purpose? I don’t think so. Is it bad? Surely not, unless I continually fail over and over again. But easy stories are boring and get passed up by reader and editor alike. Who wants to write a boring story?

But is it better to write a decent story airing on the side of boring, or a challenging story airing on the side of this-doesn’t-quite-work?

Alternative title for this post: Rhetorical Questions Galore.

Comments appreciated. :D

Excerpt of the day:

Dark colored blurred past him as he warped, and he found himself in a tiny cluster of trees at the corner of the mosaic wall, near the end of Miatowene’s dress.
“You are one freaky son of a moll, you know that?” Singe said, only ten feet away. He leaned against the mosaic, sword still hanging on his side, the shadow of his hook-topped staff looming behind him.

The Raimos, chapter 20

*Step 1: Must reread character sheet over and over and solidify character more firmly in brain.


  1. I think giving your tough-as-nails character some "less tough" qualities could make him more interesting. The character that came to my mind was Vash the Stampede (from Trigun... yeah, an anime). He's as tough as they come--the greatest gunslinger there is. But he's also very comical and sentimental. (But also frightening sometimes...)
    Anyways, I can't say how you go about pulling this off well. I think it mainly pertains to how much the readers will like the character. If he's likable and easy to root for, the readers will probably appreciate the tough guy's softer side (especially if you can get some laughs out of it... comedy is golden right?). And perhaps the character's other qualities will only make his more epic tough scenes all that more potent? It's something to experiment with--see if you can surprise the readers with a character but still have it all make sense.

  2. I think it has to do with balancing external conflicts with internal conflicts. Some of the characters (or real people) who appear tough on the outside only look that way because of self-esteem problems, or personal fears, or some other internal conflict that makes them feel weak.

    I suppose you could think of it this way: if we REALLY knew EVERYTHING about any person, we wouldn't be able to help but love them. I guess if you approach your characters with this point of view and flesh them out as much as possible--internal and external conflicts, backstory, who they are, etc etc.

    I don't know. Take a personality test on behalf of your character and see what shows up. I did that for Terra, and as a result, she's been my favorite character to write so far. :)

  3. This is coming off as someone who just studied for a bunch of psych classes in a row, particularly about gender, so grain of salt and all that.

    Often traites we'd consider "badass" are associated with very masculine traites: being independent, determined, relentless, etc. When I think "badass" I think somebody who kills people without breaking a sweat, but manages to do so without appearing completely heartless. Often times when they do things, they add "style" to them, simply because they are so awesome they can afford that handicap.

    On the other side, traites you'd consider part of a "softer-side" would usually be very feminine. Compassion, open-mindedness, etc. are all feminine traites (in psychology). If this is a male character, often traites like these don't appear unless put into a situation which requires them.

    That would be my advice. Badass=extremely competent. So, put him/her in a situation that requires him/her to be extremely competent in a feminine trait (ex: comforting someone, helping someone who cannot help themselves, etc). They can stay "badass" by being so good at this feminine side, but you won't lose the masculine appearance of badassness, because in our minds we'll file it under the same thing.

    Also, if it's a person who is totally kickass but has a softer side, I'm going to throw something at you, because that is the most overdone thing ever. :P

    Oh, another thought: it's possible for someone to be badass but also "softer," but they can still be badass at the same time. This is a kind of geeky example: My writing group and I are playing Diablo 2 together, because we apparently never want to get published. There is a character in that game, the archangel Tyrial, who is EXTREMELY badass. The guy fights the devil, is extremely intelligent, and looks cool. However, at the end, he realizes he has to sacrifice his greatest weapon (some sword that is super powerful) to make the pain of the world diminish somewhat. While it is still a totally badass scene (he lobs the sword into some crystal), you realize this guy has compassion and is willing to sacrifice something for others (which, sacrificing for others is a good "softer side" example).

    I'm talking a lot. Useless in WGMD became this type of character for me: extremely competent (though he would rarely show it because his character flaw was extreme apathy), flippant, and seemingly uncaring. However, there are maybe two or three scenes in the entire book where he offers help to someone, with no strings attached. While this isn't exactly "noble," since he hardly ever does anything nice for anybody ever, the fact he went out of his way to even consider helping somebody made you second-guess him. Yeah, example from my own thing, self centered, blah blah.

    I could try a writing prompt where character x goes to some orphanage and has to save children. Or kittens. THAT would pull out his softer side. :P