By Natalie Bright
Creating well-rounded, believable characters.
During a snowy, lazy day of watching The Big Bang Theory marathon, I started thinking about the complex dynamics of characterization. The character traits go deep in this sitcom and play off this group of friends to compliment, define, and often times clash with each other.
I began to write down the character profiles from the television show. This reminded me that well-rounded characters have good traits and bad traits, just like real people. There’s some things we really love about our BFFs, but there are other things that make us cringe. Real people are complicated. Folks have good qualities and bad qualities. They have issues from multifaceted pasts, or habits based on where they spent their childhoods.
Think about this: Real people have deep, dark secrets.
The way to avoid boring, cardboard characters is to make our fictional characters complicated too.
Sheldon Cooper: often times seems very rude
Inappropriate, no filter for what he says
We love him because: his endearing quality of a child-like innocence. He trusts his friends, does what his mother says, and loves his MeMaw. She calls him Moonpie because he’s yummy, yummy and she could just eat him up.
I think the characters of The Big Bang Theory are likeable because we can recognize in them the people that we know in real life. For a television series these recognizable traits are taken to the extreme to create believable fictional characters.
Heroes are not absolutely perfect. Give them a physical limitation, deep-burning issues from a past experience, or a personality mannerism that’s far from impeccable.
Villains aren’t all bad. Give them a loveable quality that readers can relate too, but take it to the extreme. Make them leap off the pages of your story. This past weekend I watched Silence of the Lambs again. I had forgotten how powerful that movie is. What makes us like Hannibal Lector? Why are we glad that he escaped prison?
Secrets: your characters must have a few secrets. Whether or not to reveal those secrets in your story is up to you.
Writing Exercise: Profile characters from your favorite TV show or movie.