I was watching the Avengers the other day, and I had an idea. Or rather, a question. If you overpower (OP) one of your characters (normally your MC), where do you take your story? Here is episode 3.2 of A Writer’s Guide.
If a character is so strong that they can defeat anything coming at them for example, the Hulk, how do you create enough tension, enough anticipation for your story’s climax if, heaven forbid, nothing can ever defeat them. They are indestructible, they can never be beaten. THEY CAN NEVER DIE. Think about it, we’ve all watched those shows or seen those movies where you there is that one untouchable character – you know the one, they are the ones that your screaming at the TV for them to die but they always pull through, they always managed to find a solution just when things were looking hopeless. It’s ridiculous. A great example of this is Clarke from the 100. Every time things look hopeless, every time it looks like she might finally die, she defeats the bad guy, she makes the choice, she wins.
My goal is to not have this character in my book, to not follow this trope. The problem is – I kind of already do.
Gryphon is powerful, she’s very strong. I’ve mentioned a million times about the lack of world building, so I won’t go on about it again, but here is another weakness that I found. I focused so strongly on my main character, on Gryphon, that I almost ignored every other character in the book. Even the ones that featured very strongly within the storyline – characters like Brielle, Dagon, Katara, and even Kell. While they all had their own personalities, they didn’t compare to Gryphon. They didn’t have the same “screen time” as Gryphon, which as you might imagine, is a pretty big problem. This is something that I strived to change from draft zero to the current draft. With each draft that I wrote, Gryphon became less OP, and other characters became stronger. They were more rounded, they were more real. No longer did I only hear Gryphon’s voice in my head, telling me what she wanted me to do, Brielle was there to tell me I was being an idiot, Kell was there in his quiet unassuming way, encouraging me to develop him more. Dagon went from blurry male figure to a quiet, bookish, passionate man who was very shy when you first meet him. We also meet new characters, like Rowan, who was only ever mentioned in passing – and is already so strong and there.
The problem with OP characters is that your audience will either love them and worship the ground they walk on, or they will loathe them. And more often than not, it will be the latter.
Think of your favourite books, your favourite movies – the best ones are one of the ones where every character has a place, every character has their own personality, their own way of doing things, and their own way of saying things. If every character, other than your MC, sounds exactly the same – you’re doing the wrong. If every character, other than your MC, reacts same way – you’re doing it wrong.
This isn’t meant to be a telling off, I’m not trying to tell you how to write. But this is a writer’s guide episode, it is also my opinion, so here it is: do what I didn’t – get to know all of your characters. Write down their goals, write down the thoughts, write down their flaws, and when you’re done you should know every single one of those characters like the back of your hand – like you know your best friend. What do they like? What do they hate? Who do they hate? What do they believe? What do they want? You should be able to answer every single one of these questions, about every single one of your main characters. Not just your MC, but your sidekicks, your antagonists, your bad guys. So to get to know my characters, here’s what I did: I created a “character’s motivation” list. I set out in a blank document what my characters goals were and what those solutions would be. This not only tells me what motivates my character, what they want, but it also tells me how to stop them. How to hurt them. Now you may not be like me, you may not want to stop them getting what they want. And if that is the case, this list will tell you how to give them what they want. Now you may not be able to do this if your pantser, but if you like to outline you should already know at least some of your characters and you should already know what they have done in your book. Or you should at least have some idea.
So to get to know my characters, here’s what I did: I created a “character’s motivation” list. I set out in a blank document what my characters goals were and what those solutions would be. This not only tells me what motivates my character, what they want, but it also tells me how to stop them. How to hurt them. Now you may not be like me, you may not want to stop them getting what they want. And if that is the case, this list will tell you how to give them what they want. Now you may not be able to do this if your pantser, but if you like to outline you should already know at least some of your characters and you should already know what they have done in your book. Or you should at least have some idea.
Here is an example of one of Noran’s goals – and his solution. Noran wants to be accepted into the Gardai (essentially the Elven military), he wants to follow in of heroes footsteps and surpass his tefa limitations by succeeding where others like him have failed. Now this is the big goal, mostly because of the stigmatism against tefa. They are weak, they are impure. At least in the eyes of the amali. Noran solution is to succeed in the mission that he has been given, to prove himself. His mission is SPOILERS! (Sorry guys, can’t give everything away). All this tells me that Noran has an inferiority complex, that he will do anything and everything, and will stop at nothing, to achieve his goals. You can see how something so simple as writing down my character wants XYZ, to get this they do ABC – can enlighten you as to how to write that character.
So here is my challenge to everyone out there, make a list of everything one of your characters wants, then next to that – or below it, write every solution you can think of. Then write down everything you can do to impede their progress. I know I had a lot of fun coming up with ways to stop them and I’m hoping you do to.
As always guys, go and write something.