Creating real characters

I just had to redo my villains in my story. They were simply too…flat. There was nothing to them. No back story, no depth and worse, no reason for doing what they were doing.

Since I was redoing them, I thought, heck and I started to redo two other villains as well. To do it, I sat and thought: Okay, so this guy is a jerk. He hurts women. Why does he do it? How does he justify it? And how is he hurting in his life (so that he’s not a simply evil man without any redeeming qualities)?

I basically wrote a backstory to them. One was abused as a child, one had tried to avoid the pain he felt living with his alcoholic family of origin by choosing a doing a job he hated and now, with four kids, he was trapped in doing something he disliked every day.

These weren’t main characters in my story. They were in only two or three scenes in the entire thing. Still, once I know them well, I can write them in so much better. Their dialogue comes alive and they develop quirks and mannerisms that suit their personality.

They come alive in the story because they’re alive for me.

But let’s face it, I’m no Nora Roberts. What do I know?

Well, these people know. Check out this little group of links on how to write great characters. Hopefully, one will suit your style!

Elizabeth S. Craig has this great post on Help with Character Development. In it she has a ton of other links to help out with everything from worksheets to examples. An excellent post and one with many possibilities.

Janice Hardy has this post with a list for an antagonist and this one for a protagonist! Absolutely awesome posts.

And this one is for supporting characters! Let’s not forget those. A great post by Nancy Parker.

A good villain

I’ve rambled on about flat characters before. Then I discovered this post by Lisa Alber. She writes on how to make a fantastic villain. And you need a good villain, you need a great villain to take your story from good to great.

A great villain is someone that we love to hate. It’s someone we like just a little bit; they are redeemable enough that we want to hear about them yet they’re terrible enough that we hate them anyway. You know they’re good when they keep us turning the pages. More than anything else, we want that evil person to face the music and pay for what they’ve done. They can’t stupid or illogical, they have to be smart, even a little brilliant and nasty to the bone. They can easily carry that story to the end.

But how do you get one? Hm. I’m thinking of my book, Amy’s Courage and the villains in it (yes, more than one). I think I need to revisit them. Because Lisa Alber has some very, very good suggestions on how to make these characters rich and juicy and simply delicious. Characters you love to hate. And the chance to make my book better is too good to pass up.

Want to know more? Here’s the link to her post.

Want to know less? Here’s what I took from it: enrich my villain with layers, personality and background. Give them faults but also give them gifts–after all, they too were someone’s baby once.

A big thank you to Lisa Alber for the awesome post!