The dog is as spoiled as spoiled can be. I don’t mind. I’m glad he’s resting on my arm with his head planted on part of my Macbook. His little act of neediness has granted me some inspiration. I’d like to share that inspiration here.
Spoil your characters. Really, do it. Give them higher than normal strength, the beauty of a siren or even a +1 great-sword with instant mana-burn. Whatever it is, give them something that makes them secular, otherworldly. Provide a physical, psychological or material aspect that makes them unique. Take them to the next level. Make them someone that I (the reader) want to be like.
Every Day Characters—ones that sit around drinking tea or reading the papers—are boring. Readers live with the mundane. Many read creative writing to escape it. If I’m looking for escape and the story I’m reading is about your average every day brunette who goes to the grocery store to buy vegetarian chili ingredients and then takes six paragraphs to make the chili, I’m putting the publication in the yard-sale bin. Entice me with your character. Make me jealous of her.
But don’t go overboard.
Some writers have a tendency to succumb to Shiny Character Syndrome: Authors load their character up with so many amazing traits and abilities that, by the end of it, the character has attained demi-god status. There is no mountain he cannot climb, no conflict she can’t overcome. They’re so over-exaggerated that they become a chore to read about, and have the potential to quickly become what many describe as a “Mary or Gary Sue:” just another perfect, over-the-top, carbon-copy dud.
People have flaws. In order to be connectable, characters need flaws, too. I have no sympathy for the blonde bombshell who can fight like Chuck Norris, Speak like John F. Kennedy, and still find the time to cook like that bald judge on Top Chef. Now, give that bombshell an inferiority complex due to childhood hazing and you’ve made someone I want to care about.
Try balancing a perfection with an imperfection. Say you give your character insanely good looks, make him physically weak. Give your character a great sense of taste, make her allergic to nuts. Your character can shoot laser-beams out of his eyes. That’s all well and good, but due to a childhood incident he’s actually afraid of lasers. Make him built up enough to want to emulate, but reserved enough to be relatable.
Another benefit of spoiling is that it’s fun. Who doesn’t want to dream up new and exciting things a person can be capable of—especially when you can live vicariously through the character by giving her traits you’ve always wanted!
Example: I am very slow. I run at a pathetic rate. I’ve always wanted to be quicker. In my current work-in-progress, I made the main character the fastest person in the book. Writing about him cutting through the wind like a sharp sword slicing through bamboo is fulfilling in ways. I can imagine myself in his shoes. I can run along with him. While I’m writing him I no longer feel like the slow kid in class—through him, I am the fastest.
So spoil Kingsley. Let him jump on the couch now and then—but in exchange for his amazing cat-like balance make him just a little bit dumber than the average dog. It’s a balance that will make him both admirable and amicable. It’s a balance that will leave your reader wanting more.
I’ve little to say on the personal side this week—a bit tired, but also excited that draft two is finally finished! I begin work on draft three tomorrow, and look forward to the newest part of this writing adventure.
I hope you all have a great week, and to all my pals in the blogosphere: I look forward to catching up on some reading!