Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Making Characters Human

Yesterday I saw an author asking for help with their novel. The main character experienced a painful divorce but it was never stated why the divorce happened. The author was looking for something other than infidelity that the female reporter would have gone through the divorce and everyone that commented suggested things the husband could have done to cause a lack of trust. Ideas such as him being upset because she was having money trouble and not getting work or him keeping secrets from her. I was the only one to suggest that perhaps something she did caused him to not trust her and even if it wasn't true the riff between them was too difficult to over come.

The pain in the divorce, in my eyes, was that it was a misunderstanding but even though she tried to explain and he still loved her it was something they never were able to get past. I was the only one to make it not one hundred percent on the husband. The author messaged me personally to ask later where I had come up with my idea. I said after I read through all of the others targeting the husband and making everything his fault I felt compelled to come to his defense. I knew it wasn't my story and that I didn't know back story but it struck me how one sided everyone else's ideas seemed to be. A lot of divorces are caused by issues on both sides.

We have a tendency to see our characters as perfect and therefore when it comes to there being problems in the story we want to protect them and make it someone else's fault. The problem is that by making them a victim and completely perfect it makes them less than believable. It feels hard to relate to someone without flaws so it can hold back your book from reaching the readers the way you had intended. We chatted for awhile, the other author and I, about my gut reaction to defend someone I knew nothing about. While I have no idea if my reason for the divorce is something that will be used I know they are going to incorporate flaws into the main character to make her more human.

It was an eye opener to me even to have such a reaction. That humanity element is something that seems so simple yet gets overlooked in a number of books I have read. I am adding it to my ever growing list of things to look for when I write and edit so I can make sure my characters aren't too one dimensional. Perfection is good in many things in life but when it comes to writing characters I think it is more important to be relatable than perfect.

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