Friday, December 12, 2008

Characters Come with Baggage

“Give characters traits, conflicts or weaknesses that make success difficult.” -- Gillian Roberts in You Can Write a Mystery
This wasn’t something I gave much thought to when I started writing fiction. I assumed I was telling a story worth reading by creating situations that needed to be solved. Character traits took care of themselves. Then, through critiques and comparing my stories to published ones, I realized that many of my early tales lacked sufficient conflict, and that the resolutions were often too easy. Conversely, the stories that kept my attention, the ones I couldn’t put down, were ones in which the main character struggled on many fronts. The struggles were not contrived for the sake of a character facing problems. They were an outgrowth of the character’s personality, past crises, and current relationships.

What I’m trying to verbalize is that the conflicts must arise naturally from the character’s personality and life experiences. I can’t force problems onto a character that don’t make sense given his past history and current conflicts.

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