The 10 Elements of a MAIN CHARACTER

To all the writers who have ever been told “Your characters have to be three dimensional!” or “They should be well-rounded!” and just felt like saying: “What does that even MEAN?! What goes into a 3-dimensional character? Specifically? And how do you go about creating one?!”

Good news. There’s a way. 

Great main characters – heroes, protagonists, deuteragonist, whatever you want to call them – have ten things in common. Ten things that are easily developed, once you know what to create within your character. So no one will ever be able to tell you “needs to be more three dimensional!” ever again. Ha. 

1) Weaknesses: Main characters should be flawed, but I’m not saying this because it will make them more realistic (though it will) – I’m saying they need to be flawed because if they’re not, they shouldn’t be a main character. Story is another word for change, or more accurately, character growth. Not character as in “fictional person”, character meaning “heart and soul”. Story is someone’s character changing, for better or worse. Main characters at the beginning of the story are lacking something vital, some knowledge of themselves, some knowledge of how to live a better life, and this void is ruining their lives. They must overcome these weaknesses, if they’re going to become complete, and reach a happy ending. There are two types of weaknesses: Psychological and Moral. Psychological ones only hurt the main character. Moral ones cause the main character to hurt other people. Easy.  

2) Goal: Characters exist because they want something. Desiring something, and the fight against opposition for that desire, is the lifeblood of story; and because character is story, it’s also desire that can breathe life into words on a page, and begin the process of creating a real person in a reader’s mind. It’s this ‘desire for something’ that sparks that first connection between reader and character. It makes us think “Well, now I have to find out if this person gets what they want.” This is a powerful link. (How many mediocre movies do we suffer through, when we could easily stop watching, because we’re still trapped by that question of “what happens?”) So if this is powerful enough to keep people watching an annoying movie, imagine how powerful it can be in an excellent story. 

Like in Up, the goal is to get the house to Paradise Falls.

3) Want: If the main character wants something, they want it for a darn good reason. Usually, they think that attaining the goal will fill the void they can sense in their lives, the deficiency they can feel, but don’t know how to fix. And they’re almost always wrong. Getting the goal doesn’t help anything; which is why, while pursuing that goal, they discover a deeper need that will heal them. Which brings us to …

4) Need/Elixir: Main characters are missing something, a weakness in their innermost selves is causing them to live a less-than-wonderful life. Through story, these main characters can be healed. Once they discover what’s missing, and accept it, and change the way they live to include this truth they’ve uncovered … they’re healed. Learning this truth, whatever it is, forms the purpose of the story for the main character. The reader, and the character, think the story is about achieving that big tangible goal the premise talks about; really, underneath it all, the story is about someone achieving a big intangible truth, that will ultimately save their life and future. Often, this need is exactly what the character fears or professes to hate. 

Like Finding Nemo, where Dory states exactly what Marlin needs to learn. 

5) Ghosts: 

Not this kind of ghosts.

Ghosts are events in your character’s past which mark the source of their weaknesses and strengths. Because these happened, the character became who they are. All we need to know about backstory are these moments, because who the character became is all we care about. There’s really only one ghost you absolutely need: the source of their moral and psychological weakness. Something happened that knocked the character’s world off kilter, and everything from that moment onward has been tainted by what happened. This moment haunts them (hence the name), and holds them back from uncovering that need that will heal their weaknesses. Pixar are masters of this: the source of Carl being stuck in the past, curmudgeonly, unable of loving anyone new? Ellie dying; his ghost. In Finding Nemo, the source of Marlin being suffocating, protective to the point of being harmful, possessive, and fearful? His wife and 99% of his children being eaten in front of him; his ghost. 

6) True Character: These are the strengths, values, convictions, fears, faults, beliefs, worldview, and outlook on life that make the main character who they truly are. 

7) Characterization: This is everything on the surface of a main character. The way they look, talk, act, etc. All of this originates from those deeper elements of their being, the strengths, values, ghosts, weaknesses, needs, that make them who they truly are. So often, you can think of this as a facade they’re projecting, a way to shield the the truth about themselves, how they wish to be perceived. The story, and the other characters, are slowly going to see deeper than this characterization, revealing more and more of the reasons it is the way it is. 

8) Arc: If the character is going to change from “Incomplete Person” to “Complete Person” there’s going to be a journey they go on to make that possible. The external story, the pursuit of that big tangible goal the premise is about, is causing an inner journey to take place. What they have to do in pursuit of that external goal will apply pressure to those weaknesses, and pressure causes change. This process has seven steps, but if I write it all here this post is going to be obscenely long. So I might wait and give this its own post.

9) Changed Person: Who is the character going to be at the end of this story? They better be different, or else the story didn’t work. How do they show how different they’ve become? What is the moral choice they make, that spins their trajectory from “the future doesn’t look so great” to “happily ever after”? This should be known right away, maybe even before anything else is settled about the character. This gives a distinct end goal, a way to work backwards, a destination in mind that you can navigate towards.  

10) Fascination and Illumination: The surface characterization, and the brief glimpses of the true character underneath create curiosity in the reader/audience. What the character says, and the implied subtext beneath the dialogue, creates a puzzle the audience wants to solve. Actions they take work the same way; if the writer indicates there’s deeper motivation behind why a character behaves in the way they do, we buy into solving that mystery right away. We can’t help it. “Who are you really? Why are you the way you are? And how is that going to effect the story?” These are all the unspoken, almost not consciously acknowledged, questions that fascinating characters provoke. Searching out meaning, connecting the dots to find the truth – we can’t resist this. We’re not fascinated by tons of backstory and exposition about a character; we’re fascinated by story, by mystery, by the technique of withholding information and having to interpret and hunt out the truth on our own.  So gradually, the story and the characters will force that character to reveal a little more, and a little more, until we have a complete picture of who this person is. Crucial that this information isn’t told up front. Gradually illuminate it. It’s just like getting to know a real person. 

So how does this work in a real character? Let’s take a look at Flynn Rider/Eugene Fitzherbert, because almost everybody has seen that movie. 

Moral Weaknesses: He’s selfish. He’s a little greedy. He’s a little rude. He uses his charisma and bravado to keep people at a distance from the real him. 

Psychological Weaknesses: Insecurity, fear of vulnerability, feels like the real him (Eugene) would be unwanted, unlovable, and have nothing – just like when he was an orphaned kid. Also, he doesn’t know who he wants to be, what he wants to live for. 

Goal: Flynn wants to get that crown. So he has to get Blondie to see the floating lights, so she’ll give it back to him, and then they can part ways as unlikely friends.  

Want: Why does he want the crown? What does it mean for him? He actually states it (reluctantly) in song: “I have dreams like you, no really. Just much less touchy feely. They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny. On an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone. Surrounded by enormous piles of money.” He senses there’s something off in his life, something is missing. But he mistakenly believes this missing piece is money, which will allow him to buy a lonely island, where he can live out his days as Flynn and no one will ever know Eugene. 

Need: “All those days chasing down a daydream. All those years living in a blur. All that time never truly seeing, things the way they were. Now she’s here, shining in the starlight. Now she’s here, suddenly I know. If she’s here, it’s crystal clear, I’m where I’m meant to go.” He wants a crown … he needs to fall in love with Rapunzel. He needs to love something more than himself, and find out that love isn’t something to fear and push away. He needs to abandon the 'Tales of Flynnagin Rider’ ambition, and get a more worthwhile, new dream. 

Ghost: The source of all of his weaknesses can be linked to his “little bit of a downer” childhood as an orphan. Interestingly, he isn’t aware of another facet of that ghost, and Rapunzel points it out to him. “Was he a thief too?” she asks. He looks taken aback, before answering “Uh, no.” Something’s gone wrong. The choices he’s making are not living up to that original role model.  

Characterization: Flynn’s charming, funny, smart, charismatic, and arrogant (in a somehow charming sort of way). He’s also rude, contemptuous, and sarcastic. All traits that help him keep up that 'swashbuckling rogue’ facade, and push people away from the real him. 

True Character: Underneath all that, he’s a Disney prince. That pretty much sums it up.  

Changed Person: “Started going by Eugene again, stopped thieving, and basically turned it all around.” He started the story as the guarded and evasive Flynn, he ends as the selfless and thoroughly-in-love Eugene. 

Fascination and Illumination: Imagine if everything about Flynn had been told, right up front. We know he’s an orphan, we know he’s upheld a fake reputation, we know he’s a kind and loving guy underneath it all, we even know about his “tales of Flynnagin” childhood dream. You know what happens? We like him … but we’re not interested in him. There’s nothing we need to find out. There’s no curiosity. And if there’s no curiosity, and nothing being illuminated, your story’s not going anywhere. So instead, we find out – alongside Rapunzel – more about Flynn as the story progresses. And that is how it should be. 

So!

Developing characters in this way, I’ve found, really reduces worries about how “well-rounded” and three dimensional I’ve made them. They feel real to me. And besides helping me create characters, this ten element technique has also let me analyze characters I like, which is strangely fun. It’s a great way to figure out why a character works, what causes them to be so effective, and how you can go about creating them yourself. 

Yeah, I’m a bit of a nerd. 

But if you want, try it out. Develop a character. Analyze a character. You might find it as useful/fun as I do.

Prompt #121

Her pupils dilated and her breathing was coming short, yet she gritted her teeth and promptly ignored it. That was a sign of weakness and her siblings needed no more encouraging. Slowly her eyes slid over the empty chair at the end of the table. Where was he?

I hate half cracked doors. Not open, not closed, half cracked. It doesn’t make any sense to leave it this way. It has to be closed or open. There should be no uncertainty, no unsureness. Don’t ever leave the door cracked for something to slip in (or out).

10 things I’ve learned since he left.

1. drowning yourself in alcohol won’t distract you from missing him, in fact he becomes all you can focus on.

2. smoking every night just so you can fall asleep only makes you wake up wishing he was there.

3. becoming frustrated that you can’t stop thinking about him doesn’t help, it only makes you miss him more.

4. waiting for 11:11, making wishes on eyelashes, and blowing dandelions won’t bring him back. you don’t even believe in that shit.

5. fooling around with guys whose names you’ll never remember won’t make you forget his touch.

6. you’ve lost a friend but you still have the ones who will always be there for you.

7. overwhelming yourself with activities will only make you wish he was there for you to lean on.

8. reading through the messages you can’t delete doesn’t mean he’ll always be there. he’s gone.

9. distance isn’t the only factor in moving on, it takes time.

10. there is going to be a piece of you that will always love him.

—  ten things since my heart broke // excerpt from a book I’ll never write ( offdxys )

anonymous asked:

You have given me so much inspiration, I can't begin to describe how much you've helped me develope my ocs, thank you so much!!! Also, if you got time to spare, could you do some dialouge prompts inbetween a pompous, spoiled prince and his snarky but understanding maid (same age and maybe some feelings going on between the two)

(If you haven’t watched BBC’s Merlin, you absolutely should. It is a gold mine for this. And thank you so much! I’m glad I could help.)


1) “Oh, I live to serve, sire,” she muttered. 
“Well, I’m glad you’re finally getting it.” The Prince shot her a dazzling smile. “It only took you two years. I’m so proud of you!”


2) “Wow, you’d think the future king would know how to serve his own breakfast.”
“Why ever would I need to when I have you to do it for me?” 
“Mm. England would fall without me, I’m sure.” 
“Yes.”
The sudden seriousness caught her off guard.


3) “You think you’re prince charming, don’t you?” 
“People everywhere swoon.”
“You should get a healer on that, it sounds very concerning for the future of the kingdom.” 


4) “I don’t remember asking for a maid’s advice.”
“I don’t remember asking a pompous prick to be my prince, but we all must suffer sometimes. Just listen to me - please!”
Miraculously, he fell silent.  

anonymous asked:

This is something that I have been wondering about for a while, and since it is related to writing I decided to ask one of my favorite writing blogs...Is it wrong for guys to want to write romance? Not the steamy, rated R stuff, but rather the process of falling in love bit. I love action, adventure, and science fiction, but I always have romance intertwined in it. It is something my friends find hilarious and I can't help but wonder if it is really all that strange....

Okay, well here’s a representation of what happened when I read this:

*Runs down stairs in a rage, trips on bottom step and almost breaks ankle*

“Mum! You’ll never believe what someone said to my Anon!”

*Gripping phone tightly, mum stepping away a little due to my ‘minor’ freak out*

“Wh-what, Honey?”

*Reads the message and has to stop mid-way through because I’m too pissed*

*Heavy breathing*

And now, I’ve sat here and reread this ask about 8 times. Darling, Write whatever the f**k you want to write. Don’t feel bad because of your ask, that is not what I’m getting mad at. I’m mad because someone (or group of someone’s) was teasing and putting my anon down for writing romance. Write The Romance! No one has any right to tell you what to write, so don’t take it to heart. If they irritate you once more for writing romance, you let me know and I will be there asap to punch a few faces. Then we get coffee and write romance novels like total badasses, okay? I’m sorry for my anger, oh god, I hope I haven’t scared you all off… I just feel that things like this shouldn’t be stereotyped to one gender and no one should be hurt by someones words for doing something that they’re probably rather good at. And if you want to write smut, you damn-well write it. 

I love you all very much and if someone hurts any of you because of what you write or the way you write, I swear I will fly out to your hometown and start some shit. No kidding… Good luck with the romance writing and message me if you want someone to tell you good things about you and your writing. Lots and lots of love from Yasmine xox

anonymous asked:

Nameste. I love your prompts. Can I please get a few prompts for dragon who is in human form living amongst humans? It can be either starter or dialogue prompts. Thank you for your time and inspiration.

1) “Don’t touch my stuff.” For a second, it seemed that their roomate’s eyes almost flared golden in the light. “Ever.” 
They held their hands up. “I’m sorry - I was just - it’s really messy in here. I just wanted to tidy up a bit.” 
“It’s not messy, I know where everything is.” And now their nightmare of a roommate seemed mortally offended. It was like there was no winning!


2) It was expressly forbidden for a dragon to hoard people, punishable by instant death, but they had just met the jewel of all collections in the world. A dragon’s appetite can be a terrible thing. The dragon had become an expert of seducing their treasures so they never even realized they were being hoarded at all.


3) “Are you okay? I think you’re feverish.”
“I’m fine, really.”
“You’re as hot as a furnace!”


4) Dragons had long since integrated with humans, the days of gold and smoke and caverns long gone. Dragon hunters, unfortunately, were not quite so long gone.  
“You didn’t really think you could hide from me forever, did you?”


5) “I should have expected this, everyone knows that dragons are selfish creatures that care only for their own greed!”
The dragon flinched. They had truly tried to be good, to help, this time. 

brownsugarqxeen  asked:

I wrote a story about a 15 year old boy who murders his entire family and plays victim and he ends up going to live with his aunt and he's virtually a manipulative serial killer and at the end everyone dies. For class it had to be a 3,000 words but I re wrote it to 11,000 words. What are your tips on, 1. Making stories longer bc I wanna make it an actual novel that's like a full length book 2. Psychological/ angst/ something to make the reader feel bad for the character until the end.

Oh this was an emotional rollercoaster! Promise me a signed copy of the novel when it gets into stores? XD

So first off, I am so guilty for writing things for hours then looking at the word count (after realising I’ve been at it for far too many hours) and finding it at around 20k. It’s almost unhealthy for me, because I’m really bad at remembering things and I totally zone out on writing-days, meaning if I made plans with someone, they’re obviously not going to happen…

Now, the advice I’d give for making a reader feel sorry for a character is a little different for the things I’d say to help writing angst and psychological behaviour, so bare with me. When writing to make the reader empathetic, you will want to make the characters sorrow, pain, grief and turmoil, front and centre. It has to be hard to ignore and intertwined with the other characters lives as well. It also helps when everything happens to go wrong for that character- much like Harry Potter. No kidding, everything went wrong for him, didn’t it.

I formed a list of ways to make the reader feel sorry for/sympathise with the character:

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