magictaser said:

I have a problem with my characters. In my head they are complex and interesting, but on the page they seem so flat (frankly, boring) and unrealistic! How can I make my characters really sing on the page, and how can I make them more unique/less cliche or overused? I'm finding that it's one thing to know a character's personality, desires, and background, but trying to bring out their individuality in writing has proven to be a challenge. Thoughts?

I think we all run into this problem with our characters at one point or another. It sounds like you have a good start and a great imagination. Whether you know it or not, knowing what makes your characters tick is more than half the battle. Here’s some ideas to translate the awesomeness in your head to awesomeness on the page.

  • I follow one rule when I talk about my characters with other writers and creative types: I speak about them as if they are real people. It helps me get into the right mindset when I write.
  • Body language. Grab a notebook and go to a coffee shop. Watch what people do with their coffee mugs, spoons, hands, etc. How does the first date to your left compare with the “Let’s be friends” chat to your right? Don’t be a creeper about it, but be aware. Jot down a few words describing what you see, then apply it to your characters as needed. It’s amazing how describing something as small can have such a large impact.
  • Make them fight! Take two of your characters and make them disagree over some thing. It doesn’t have to be related to your story because this is just an exercise for you. Write your dialogue as if you were eavesdropping on their discussion. Go wild and push their buttons. If they resort to name calling and swearing, good. If one leaves in tears, even better. You’ll not only see how those traits and foibles fit together, but you’ll get insight into their emotions.

Most importantly, when you sit down to write keep your imagination wide open. Know where you need to go in your plot, but let your characters tell you how to get there. I’d also take a read through these tags here, here, and here.

Good luck!

On Ed and Al and Fighting

Rémy and I were considering what would Ed be like if he’d never attempted the human transmutation of his mother. If, to go even further, he grew up happily, with his mother alive, and in his optimal environment. Without the need to learn alchemy so quickly, to train or fight, to join the military and survive against a ton of people who want to kill him…would he be the fighter he is?

His nature is argumentative. He will yell, scream and rail against people who disagree, who call him short, or who rub him wrong. However, I don’t think that he, by nature is a fighter. He’s verbal, and theoretical. This shows in his love of research, and quest for knowledge. He wants to find the Philosopher’s Stone, and he goes after it by diving into books. It’s only the fact that people are trying to stop him, that he needs to fight them off.

Teacher’s philosophy is another thing that has shifted where he might have ended up. I think Ed is an intellectual, but as Ed has said, you have to train the body to train the mind. Without this quest, or the training he received (solely because he wanted to learn, and he ended up with Izumi, who’s a very physical person) he’d probably spend much more time in the mental world. He also has this streak of kindness, empathy and a firm knowledge of the beauty and rights of human life. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have such a firm belief against killing.

Alphonse, by contrast, is very nice and sweet on the surface. He cares about others, and isn’t shy about it. But, he’s got a sassy streak, and is colder in his judgements towards others. He is a physical guy. He’s very good at the fighting, and doing, and he excels more than Ed at the practical alchemy. It’s ironic, or perhaps telling, that he’s the one that lost his physical body. Katie has a headcanon that when he goes to the East, he learns as many different styles of martial arts as he can, and I think that’s very likely.

There is a difference in their fighting styles as well, that you can see in the anime. Edward is defensive. He dodges, and ducks, using his smaller size to his advantage. He uses the sword arm to block, and mainly engages with people who have attacked him. He never goes in to wound, or especially kill, only to prolong the fight until he can get away, or the person stops.

Alphonse is quick and efficient. He moves to take someone down with as few moves as possible. This is why, in their sparring together, the fights last a while, but ultimately, Al always takes Ed down. In their fight on the roof, the reason Ed won so fast or at all was because he was using the opposite of his usual fighting style, and took him down in one move. Al wasn’t prepared for that, not that Al wanted to fight in that moment anyway.

An example that illustrates all this is Greed’s kidnapping of Al. Al, when threatened (somewhat vaguely, honestly) goes immediately to ‘well, I’ll beat you up and make you tell me what you know’. Ed, when he got there, is yelling and making noise, but he makes no move to attack until Greed does. Also, if Greed hadn’t kidnapped Al, he probably would have been interested in talking with him, since all Greed wanted from the start was an exchange of information.

In short, Ed is all bark and no bite (unless you attack him or his loved ones). Al is no bark and all bite. You think he’s the sweeter younger brother until he really isn’t.

The fact is, they are very well constructed characters. They both have a surface persona that has characteristics that are very much them. But underneath, there are traits that are also them, and is very different, or in opposition of their surface character. This is how humans are, and the fact that Arakawa created such intricate people to read about is an indication of her skill.

This is part of a long conversation Rémy and I had, which included other upcoming topics of meta, such as why Ed should not be a stay at home dad, the topic of killing in the manga regarding Ed, Al and Winry, and disabilities and dreaming, among other things. Those will be upcoming soon. Thanks for reading!

One take

I am not a starving actress
auditioning to be your main character.
I will not fight for a place in your life,
much less to be an extra in the background.
You have me here open, honest, exposed.
You can choose to take me as I am
or watch me as I go,
but don’t for a second think
you can take the role of director
or write me in and out when you please.

| c.l.s | 2014


New photos reflecting the player characters of Legion: Siberian story - upcoming historical LARP about the story of the Czechoslovak legionaries in WW1 (the anniversary of 100 years)

If you don’t know your personality type, take the test HERE!

I was tagged by: nobody I stole it from queerdean cause it looked fun

Rules: Find out what characters share the same personality type as you here and list the characters that you find relevant below. Then tag five friends and let them know you tagged them!

Type: ENFP (Champion) 

ENFPs like to change things for the better, and have contagious enthusiasm, but no patience for crossing I’s and dotting T’s. They are good at anticipating others’ needs, but crave attention and recognition.


I tag: everyone