Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Characters - real or fictional?

Okay, so anyone who knows me a bit, knows how concerned I am about my characters being real and 3-D. I don't like one-dimensional characters, I like development, I like character driven books (although I have been know to be an Asimov fan, so go figure...).

In any event, lately, I decided my antagonist needed a little change in character to make him more interesting. You see, despite the interesting bits I tried to inject to his character, at the end of the day, I felt he was predictable.

So I made him do something out of character. Being the selfish, self-centered, control freak that he is, I made him do a selfless act.

I discussed this with a buddy who said that while in real life, this would probably never happen as we do tend to stay in character, in fiction it is necessary. Fictional characters, he said, should act totally against their nature as it adds more depth to them and it makes for great drama.

So it's a funny thing. I keep wanting to have "real characters," yet to make them real, they have to be fictional. I like this.

12 comments:

Nienke said...

And yet, while making them do something totally out of character, we reveal their character even more, don't we?

Sayre said...

Even "real" people are more interesting when they do something they wouldn't normally do. That's why the story of Scrooge gets told over and over - maybe not the out-of-character act itself, but the transformation that takes place BECAUSE of the act. Or the lessons learned.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I agree with you (and Nienke, and Sayre) but I'm afraid I disagree with your buddy. I don't think people do 'stay in character' in real life. I have noticed that people prefer to see themselves and others as predictable and consistent, but it seems to me that we are not like that at all. So I too think that reflecting human inconsistency reveals more about a character, and therefore about ourselves: about what we are, or what we might be capable of.

Nienke Hinton said...

Then there's the dichotomy of who we try to let people think we are vs. who we really are.
And, like Zinnia says, what is anyone capable of when pushed to the limit? Do we even know what WE are capable of?

S William said...

It's OK to have characters do out of character things. But make it be and event filled with internal and external conflict.

KG said...

Characters acting (supposedly) out of character is crucial to great stories. These characters are memorable because they inspire — in difficulty, conflict, or under burden, they step out of themselves in order to survive or make their lives better. They become stronger because they've stretched their wings, or just found them for the first time.

Isn't it encouraging to read about others who have rebelled against their comfort zones to do the extraordinary?

Lee Carlon said...

I agree, I've often thought that if characters are to be believable, they can't behave just one way (even though many people do in real life). Besides most stories are supposed to have some sort of conflict, so people do do things out of character when the pressure is on.

Lynn said...

I like this, too, Melly. When I write something, a shallow character makes the entire work ring hollow to me. The story has a way of taking care of itself once I get the characters up and running.

shanna said...

Having a character do something unexpected makes things interesting ... just make sure it is for a reason, so that your character stays organic. Good luck.

IM Cupnjava said...

Giving characters depth can be tricky. Do you ever feel you've gone too far out-of-character with them and thus have changed the character?

Bhaswati said...

Shanna is right. It's rather annoying to see one-dimensional antagonists. All characters have shades and layers. But if there's a valid reason for someone to behave differently from the way they usually would, it just makes the writing more "real."

Dreamless Night said...

Well, even with real people, they sometimes do things they wouldnt normally do....its rare but its happen