In my writing, I’ve discovered – okay, I admitted – that my characters need work. Not in my head, but in paper. I know my characters. I know them! But that doesn’t matter. It does, but not really. What does matter is that you (put down the ice-cream scoop and read this), yes you, know my characters. What does matter is that halfway through the book you have a good idea of what the character would do. You (my beloved reader) should freely be able to identify the many characters voices from the narrator or other characters. They’re all different. You know, like people.
I know that we are talking about a two-dimensional medium, but that is no reason for our little imaginary friends and foes to be flat. I read somewhere that flat characters should be abolished, “we only want round characters,” was said. I’m going to have to disagree on that one. I think characters should be shapeless, odd fitting, jagged even. You know, like people.
They should have problems and secrets. Just think of your own, and those around you. Like the time you smoked a joint in your moms mini-van, or when your friend did nothing buy flirt with your boyfriend, or the time your cousin almost overdosed on heroine, or when you masturbated in the school’s bathroom, or when you shoplifted those bra’s from the mall, or when… I can go one all night on this (really, I can and it’s frightening). In any case, I trust you get the idea. Now think, or try to imagine how each and every one of those experiences could have molded that person with the inevitable passage of time. Did being a junkie make them a better counselor? Having an overbearing Christian mother push her to join a satanic cult? Did sleeping around in high school make him a faithful husband or an incurable man-slut? Flaws, problems and how they are overcome: It is these characteristics that make our imaginary friends interesting. You know, like people.
How are your characters? Do you like them? Do they annoy you? Are they like you, or totally imagined, or somewhere in between?