Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

movie

Disney Princess Types That Have Not Happened So Far

We all know the official Disney princesses as of now. Some of us may know about the forgotten Disney princesses. But that’s another post.

Anyway, have you noticed these details that have never happened to Disney princesses, both the official and forgotten ones? Read below:

1: A princess who wears glasses

Not one Disney princess wears glasses. In fact, not long after I noticed that, a little girl who wears glasses wrote to Disney and stated that it would be nice to have a Disney princess who wears glasses. Hey, glasses are NOT nerdy at all.

2: A princess with braces

Like glasses, braces are not geeky, either. Yes, many princess movies are set in historical time periods. But, hey, unchronological stuff happens in Disney movies all the time (like several times in “Aladdin”, especially with the genie). A princess with braces would be nice.

3: A transgender princess

In a time of people starting to accept sexual orientations and gender identities, it would be appropriate to have a transgender princess. There’s already been pressure toward Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. While there haven’t been any hints to Elsa having a female lover on the “Frozen 2” trailer, it would be great if there were a lesbian or transgender princess.

4: A disabled princess

There was a petition for a Disney princess with Downs Syndrome. But not one princess has been blind, deaf, physically handicapped, or anything else. Well, Ariel becomes mute for a good chunk of “The Little Mermaid”. But her voice was physically removed.

5: A tomboyish princess passionate about science

Okay, I know. Science barely plays roles in Disney films. Probably because magic is more dominant. However, I think this would be hard to market to little girls. So if a tomboyish science-obsessive princess ever happens, she’d likely end up a forgotten Disney princess.

6: A princess too old to be official

I was surprised when I first discovered that Elsa is supposed to be 21 in the main events of “Frozen” (the first one in 2013). That makes her the oldest official Disney princess in age and the only one not a teenager. Some of the forgotten Disney princesses might be older than teens too (Wikipedia said that Megara from “Hercules” was 20) and some are definitely younger, like Vanellope from “Wreck-it-Ralph”. In fact, part of the reason Vanellope is not official is because she was considered too young. However, no princess has been deemed too old. Disney rarely made human protagonists older than teens before the turn of the century. But even now, a 30-year-old princess would likely be too old to appeal to young girls.

Well, that’s all. Have you noticed any missing details among the Disney princesses?

Writing

The Dialogue… It’s so Incredibly Difficult!

Image from Pixabay

Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen to how people speak.

Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help, either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their characters’ dialogue.

But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s so frustrating!

However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I changed the words.

Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.

Writing

How I Develop My Characters

Characters come in all shapes, sizes, personalities, and much more. So do the ways they are developed.

Many writers base their characters of real people they know. They also develop them like the folks they know.

Want to know how I develop my characters? Yes? All right. Here I go. I often develop them as I develop my storylines. I get to know them as I draft. I unconsciously develop them through other story elements too, like dialogue and actions.

Now these are not the only ways I develop my characters. Sometimes I plan their personalities, even if the characters don’t make it to the final drafts. I also might base them off other fictional characters from other franchises, sometimes myths and legends. For example, in one of my works, there’s a character inspired by the Grim Reaper.  

Unlike many authors, I never really base characters off people I know. However, I do often develop them like those in my lives. This was especially common in my earlier works, when I was still learning how to develop my characters. I developed a couple like my cousins at that time and one like my brother back then.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all way to developing characters. It is, however, important to make your characters believable, round rather than flat, crucial to your story, imperfect (they should have at least some flaws), and change at the end of your tale. This is especially essential for you main or major characters.

This technique also takes a while to learn. It took me, like, seven years to discover my writing voice. A similar amount of time might happen for you if you’re new to creative writing.

If you search for me on Amazon, you’ll see that I have published five books, but only one is for sale. That is because the others weren’t exactly the strongest. Except for one, I did pretest the others to make sure they were good enough to please strangers. They were. But I felt the novels could’ve been better.

So hang tight as you learn to develop your characters. If you need assistance, there are character development worksheets you can find online and use to answer questions about your characters. Sometimes I’ve interviewed my characters, answered questionaires about them, or even wrote short stories from their points-of-view. This might help you. Something will.

movie

Character Critiques… True as They Can be… Beauty and the Beast-1991

Warning: Contains Spoilers***

The animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” remains one of my favorite Disney movies. I liked the live-action remake equally to the cartoon.

However, this post will only critique the characters in the 1991 cartoon. I will discuss all the major and minor characters (including the 3 silly girls in love with Gaston).

1: The Beast:

We all know how and why he became a beast and what he had to do to turn back into a human. His struggle to show kindness communicated well. He had trouble smiling and showing manners. He needed assistance from his servants.

When he grew and changed into a kinder entity, though, there was not much that either hinted at his change or did it gradually. It was a little too abrupt or sudden for plot convenience. The only hint is when he saved Belle after she ran away. However, I did like the beast more after he changed into a nicer character.

HIs anxiety right before the “Beauty and the Beast” song number felt real. I could easily relate to that since I often have to deal with anxiety.

2: Belle:

The provincial village girl who loves to read and is often misunderstood by her community was also well-developed. She was naïve and a little whiny at times, but also strong and brave. She refused to marry Gaston and longed for freedom and adventure. Her relationship to her horse, Philippe was adorable. She and her father’s bond also did well. And her attempt to love the beast was brilliant.

There is a conspiracy theory about Belle having Stockholm Syndrome, but I’m not sure if it’s true. Belle was a likable character.

When she entered the west wing, despite the Beast’s order to never go there, I appreciated how she resisted with Lumiere and Cogsworth, and checked out the area. I felt when she discovered the prince’s portrait before he’d turned into a beast, I felt that it was an important plot element. Had she gone there, would the ending have differed and would she have been confused?

3: Gaston:

The handsome man who wanted to marry Belle was also the main antagonist. Like the other villagers, he considered Belle’s father crazy and wouldn’t believe him about the beast until Belle revealed him to them. His sense of humor and sin was well balanced.

4: Lefou:

He was Gaston’s sidekick. He was silly, but also sinful. He tried to keep Gaston in a good mood. His character design was humorous and appropriate for his personality. Although when Gaston died, we never know what happened to Lefou after.

5: Maurice:

As the father of Belle, and un-liked by the village, Maurice is a great inventor. He also shows love and concern for his daughter. His fear at times was done well. I liked how he got excited over the props in the Beast’s castle (and didn’t know that they were once people). The moment he played with Cogsworth and called him an invention was hilarious.

Because he was unpopular, I often felt sorry for him. However, he was also a likable character.

6: Lumiere:

The kind servant who was turned into a candlestick was willing to take Maurice in, despite the Beast’s rules at the time. He was willing to give Belle dinner and the song, “Be Our Guest” was great.

I will say when he first greeted Belle, he went a little to far with the kissing. When he was mad that the beast let Belle go, his assumption that maybe it would’ve been better if Belle never came at all made him believable. Although, he seemed to have trouble remembering her name. Right before the “Beauty and the Beast” song number, he still called her, “the girl” instead of her name, “Belle”. Does Lumiere struggle to remember names of new people?

7: Cogsworth:

The clock servant had little sympathy when the beast was still nasty to outsiders. He disapproved of Maurice staying inside the castle because he was worried that the beast would find out, and then he did. When the beast changed into becoming nicer, so did Cogsworth.

8: Mrs. Potts:

One of the few female characters in this movie was turned into a tea-pot. She was kind like Lumiere. When she offered tea to Belle, that was sweet. The way she raised Chip was also great.

9: Chip:

He was Mrs. Potts’s son. He was so cute with Belle and was very brave. When he laughed at the beast’s bad eating manners, and Mrs. Potts gave him a dirty look, I must admit that I agreed with Chip. I appreciated how he helped Belle and Maurice escape from being sent to the asylum.

10: The 3 silly girls:

The blonde triplets who were in love with Gaston were funny. However, someone in a YouTube video pointed out that they didn’t do much to enhance the story. I couldn’t help but agree with them. However, their actions still amused me.

 

Do you want to mention anything you like about these characters?

Writing

When Child Characters Need to Rely on Adults

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A while back, I have watched a video about developing children’s novel characters. The person in the clip said that the characters have to make their own decisions at all times. She also said that adults should be kept out of the story as much as possible. I’d say, “Yes and no.” It really depends on your story’s setting and plot. If it’s olden times in history, when children were expected to have more independence and it was considered standard and safe during that time, then it make sense to keep adults out. Or if your story is set in another country that has different laws from the US about child safety and restrictions, then being 100% independent can work as well.

However, if your story is set in modern times, and in a country like the US, Canada, UK, etc., depending on your novel plot, it can be harder to keep adults out of the story. Of course, you shouldn’t have your child character ask his or her parents for homework help. But, depending on the kid’s age, they can’t do certain things too independently, otherwise, readers could expect CPS to show up at the character’s home.

Bringing me to the purpose of this post, I am now going to give examples of when a child character needs to rely on an adult.

 

1: Provide family income and shelter

 

This is an obvious one, even if it doesn’t play a role to your story. You cannot have a kid live by him or herself unless your story is set in a very poor place or a very old time, like an ancient civilization. But it’s just not possible.

 

2: Being Driven

 

Unless your character is old enough for a license, he or she is going to need to depend on an adult to drive him or her. That being said, they can still think about their own decisions while in the car or whatever vehicle he or she is in.

 

3: Having certain papers that require parent/guardian signatures

 

From legal documents to school permission slips, a child will need to have an adult sign these types of papers to make the story believable. Unless it’s necessary for your plot to have the kid forge the signature, he or she has to get an adult.

 

4: Being escorted in places forbidding un-accompanied minors

 

With so much security and surveillance today, it would be hard to have a child character go somewhere like what is mentioned above without adult supervision. Of course, this also depends on your setting. But if it’s modern times in a nation like the US, then it would only be believable if the kid is escorted by a grown-up.

 

Other than these exceptions, your child character should make his or her own decisions and be independent. Do you have any examples of when child characters need to depend on adults? Please tell me in the comments below.

Writing

Describing Characters in Books: My Unique Views on That

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(Narrative image from Pixabay)

I am not like many readers when it comes to reading physical descriptions of characters in books. A lot of readers dislike the author telling them what the characters look like. They want to picture the characters their ways. In fact, some readers rebel against what the authors say in describing the characters.

However, my views are different. Recently, I’ve been acknowledging that the characters in books are, indeed, somebody else’s creations. So I think it’s silly for me to get upset if a character doesn’t look the way I want. I support character descriptions greatly. I like to describe my book’s characters and encourage other writers to do so. In fact, I cannot really picture a character or keep a consistent image of him or her in my head unless they’re described with at least one trait. Otherwise, they don’t feel real enough to me.

I also wondered why people are accepting of character appearances on movies, TV shows, comics, and more, but not novels. That is because novels are not visual, so the idea is to use your mind to visualize the images. But I see it as the same. Visual works and non-visual are someone else’s creations for my entertainment. Just because novels don’t have pictures in them (with the exception of chapter books or graphic novels), that doesn’t mean the characters become mine to own. If I were to declare their physical appearance and promote that, I could get sued. But that’s a whole different topic.

Because the author created the characters, I believe they have every right to tell me, as the reader, what the characters look like with whatever descriptive traits they want—as long as it’s not too many (because that’s too much to remember and bogs down the narrative-up to a few are good enough) or offensive (you can figure that out).

But other than that, I accept descriptions of any trait. What I usually describe is a character’s hair and one or two other key features (i.e. glasses or beards). I never do eye color, because there are just too few choices, in my opinion. I also don’t do nose shapes or face shapes.

You can continue to approach character descriptions your way. This is just how I view them.