It’s Not Always Pleasantville

I’ve recently discovered something that may be holding me back as a writer. Characters, no matter how cool and badass, can’t do everything. They don’t always achieve their goals, they don’t do everything perfectly. They make mistakes. This somewhat falls into the category of not babying your protagonist.

I’ve always known that characters need to have flaws to make them who they are. They need to make mistakes to move the story forward, and to help their development. I’ve tried to put this in all of my work. However, I don’t think I’ve done it to the best of my ability. Here’s how I usually have my characters sort out their problems:

Introduce character to problem > character contemplates solutions > character fails at one or two attempts > character succeeds.

Things just don’t always work out like that. Sometimes, people fail indefinitely, or they need help from someone or something else, or they need to grow before they can accomplish something. Sometimes, they walk into the antagonist’s trap and are swept off on aother journey. Sometimes, characters nearly escape, and then don’t. That’s what makes them 3 dimensional.

I’m sure you get my point.

I think I came to this realization while watching A Game Of Thrones. One particular character was so unlikeable because one of the other characters, (his wife), couldn’t stop him. It helped to build a dislike for the character that will make it much more satisfying when/if he is stopped in the future.

Now that I’ve realized this I think I can continue to grow as a writer. I think I will be able to add more suspence and character development to my stories, which will make them better.

Do you ever make your characters too perfect? Have you read any books with characters who seem to do no wrong? Characters who seem to be able to escape any situation?


4 thoughts on “It’s Not Always Pleasantville

  1. These realizations are always fun, and you’ll learn more and more about what you need to do or prefer to do with your prose. 😀

    Game of Thrones is definitely one of those series that helps you learn what it is about the characters that keeps you so compelled. I mean, a lot of them die or are selfishly pushing their own agendas, yet we love this series so much that it’s ridiculous, haha.

  2. The first novel that me and mywriting partner wrote our protagonist was all but perfect which is why the novel did not work. I have found that writing short stories helped with learning character development.

  3. My protagonists in my first novel have always been gritty, which is why they’re so much fun to play with. I’m still a little timid about being mean to them at times, though. They’ve got murky pasts, but doing the damage on the page is still very difficult.
    My “perfect” character, however, started out as comic relief. She’s actually quite lovely. She started as a minor character, but I think her perfection, her strength, is something my messed up main characters are going to need to lean on in future …

  4. I think a lot of writers have this problem. You’re in good company. I think we all really like our characters, and WANT them to succeed. In a lot of ways, we also live vicariously through them, so we have that stacked against us. The ironic part is our readers love our flawed damaged characters rather than the successful ones, isn’t that true? I’d say that characters rarely have one goal only, so we usually have some secondary goals we can let them fail at, if we have to. LOL Good Luck!

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