May 19, 2015

Larger-Than-Life Characters

The Justice League
I always like to re-read famous literary agent Maass's The Breakout Novelist after I've already brainstormed a few times through a new novel (even if it's a novel in a series). The reason being that it forces me to think about my story under different angles, thereby spurring my imagination even further. Which I think is always a plus.

In any case, Maass has a whole chapter describing different types of characters (you can go here if you want a more extensive list) and I decided to focus on larger-than-life characters and what characteristics make them so. So here's the quick list:

1.  Strength: What strength(s) does your hero(ine) hold? This can be any number of things, such as cunning, insight, wisdom, compassion, courage, outspokenness, humor, hope, perseverance, intelligence, etc.

2. Inner Conflict: Although it's good for your hero(ine) to have strengths, a character isn't going to interest readers if s/he isn't struggling somehow, perhaps because s/he has conflicting emotions or goals that force him/her to sacrifice something dear to him/her.

3. Self-Regard: aka your protagonist's emotions matter to him/her. Which only makes sense. If your character doesn't care about what's happening to him/her, why should the reader care either? "A compelling hero does not deny his feelings--he is immersed in them.

4. Wit and Spontaneity: Larger-than-life characters do and say things we ordinary folks wouldn't dare to, though we'd very much want to. And here, like so many other parts of the story, "actions speak louder than words."

Finally, I would like to close this post by adding Maass's following observation regarding character development (or lack thereof):

"So many protagonists that I meet in manuscripts start out as ordinary Joes or Janes. Most stories build toward enormous heroic actions a the end, which is fine, but what about the beginning? What is there to make me care? Often, not enough. Demonstrate special qualities right away, and you will immediately turn your protagonist into a hero or heroine, a character whose outcome matters."

Happy writing :)
Here's another hero with great strengths but also great conflicts: Frodo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings
Frodo and the Nazgul by John Howe

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