Characters: Likeability Verses Interest

I have no doubt that this is just a personal preference. In fact, this is going to be a pretty one-sided argument.

Fair? Don’t know the meaning of the word.

So, whenever I see someone ask on forums whether their characters are likeable or not, I always respond by saying they should worry less about making their characters likeable, and more about making them interesting. I know this is a personal preference because in books where interesting characters do some pretty morally questionable things, I’ve seen this reflected in some people’s reviews, essentially ruining the whole book for those particular readers. One of my favourite books . . . Actually, almost every one of my favourite books have morally questionable, or just downright morally defunct characters. Let’s not look into what that says about me, and instead look at how this would have without a doubt turned some people off. Nevertheless, I still think trying to alter a character to make them likeable, just for the sake of not offending anyone, would only end up harming the book more.

At this point, I think you all know what side I’m advocating for. I’ve read books where characters were clearly written to be likeable, even in situations where it would have made more sense to strip away some of those morals and have them make decisions that wouldn’t make them out to be saints. I’ve read books with characters who were the epitome of moral behaviour, and while that would theoretically make that character likeable, not only does it make them uninteresting, but it also makes them unbelievably annoying. The most unbelievably, annoying and boring characters I have ever read.

If a character needs to lie, or steal, or even go so far as to kill, in order to progress, and it’s within character for them to do so, then let them. Rather than finding some contrived way to keep a character pure and innocent, find ways to keep them interesting and engaging. I won’t deny the importance of likeability, but I feel as if writing in order to make them likeable isn’t the way to achieve that. You wouldn’t write a book with the sole intention of making it marketable, so don’t write your characters that way, either.

Look at characters like Loki from the Thor movies. What is there to like about him? Spoiler alert: He’s betrayed his brother numerous times, tried to kill his father, if I remember correctly. If I don’t remember correctly, well, he’s still been one hell of a problem child. He tried to take over the world with an alien army, and wherever he goes, mayhem generally follows. Sounds like a complete bastard, right? And yet, for some inexplicable reason, he’s insanely popular among the Marvel fandom . . . Mostly women . . . A lot of whom have crushes on him . . . It’d probably help to make your character attractive. In all seriousness, though, he’s probably even more popular than the actual heroes of the movies. It may be the case that he was written to be a lovable jerk, but I don’t believe that to be the case.

In any case, you see my point. The best characters aren’t written to be likeable. Their likeability should be something that comes naturally as a result of all their personality traits and actions coming together. If your character is the most interesting character to have ever been written, but due to some of their less favourable traits some readers still don’t like them, then that’s a shame, but don’t alter them based on them not being likeable to a few readers. To paraphrase one of my very first blog posts, screw what other people think and just write what you want . . . although if everyone ends up hating your character, then yeah . . . I give you permission to ignore all of this.

Anyway, just let the characters speak for themselves and there will be people who enjoy them for who they are. They may be absolutely loathsome as people, but the beauty about fiction is that you can love arseholes like Loki because they’re fictional.

You can’t please everybody, especially when it comes to any sort of creative art, like writing, so don’t try.

Until the next one, everyone.

Laurence out.

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My Challenges With Creating Child Characters

Oh, that pro alliteration. My skill is unparalleled.

Alright, so I’m pleased to say that I am, indeed, writing again. I’m back in my natural habitat shunning outlines and writing whatever so happens to enter my head. I don’t know if I would say that it’s easier. I definitely find it more fun, especially considering I don’t have to spend months just to plan the damn thing; and I’m glad I don’t have to go through all the characters and write out the personalities of each of them, since I’m more than fine storing that stuff in my head.

But, I do have one big problem . . . well, six little problems that I think even an excessive plan wouldn’t have been able to fix, and they go by the names of Kathy, Lili, Obi, Alex, Melissa and Kevin.

Now . . . I’m not a parent, and certainly not one of five-year-olds. I don’t have any younger siblings, and whenever I’m out in public I usually have headphones blasting music into my ears, so even if there are little kids around I can’t even hear them. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to go to a park with a notebook and a pen, and proceed to watch the children, therefore, the only real experience I have with how children behave is my own. And with my twenty-one-year-old mind, it’s hard to look back on my memories of that age with the mind of a child.

So, when it comes to writing child characters, most of whom are wildly different from one another, I don’t have a lot to reference. I mean, there was one book I had to read for A-level English Literature that I could reference . . . if I wanted to end up wanting to murder each and every child in my book . . . Look. I seriously hated Room, by Emma Donoghue. I don’t even feel bad for wanting the kid dead. And who knows? Maybe he does die. I’m not going to pretend I was able to endure that book to the end. I applaud Donoghue for trying, for being ambitious, but in my opinion, Room is a perfect example of a little child being written awfully . . . I’m sure I was making a point before I got lost in remembering just how much I hated that book.

Ah, yes! My point is I don’t have anything to help me write child characters well. In my previous attempts at getting anything to do with this series finished, the characters were in their late teens, and while I can take a few character traits from that, it would be weird for a little child to behave like a young adult. Also in a previous attempt I had a prologue with three of those characters as children, so I could use that as a basic template. After all, they do grow up to become those people.

The thing is, some children tend to be both innocent little angels, as well as malicious little demons, and in a story that has them as consistent . . . no . . . very important secondary characters, writing them as well-behaved pretty much all the time, though convenient, wouldn’t be realistic. Perhaps I could get away with a couple of the more timid and reserved children not being annoying, but not all of them. The reason this is such a problem is because my main character is a single mother of four of these children. Quadruplets, yes. She certainly has quite a bit of help raising them, but still, they’ll be consistent characters throughout the story, and children or not, they’ll still have to be good, well-rounded and developed characters.

Oh, and Melissa . . . Jesus. How do you write an excessively educated five-year-old who sometimes even corrects adults, and her grandfather, at that?

Well, I’ve been going on instinct, and what looks right thus far, and it doesn’t seem so bad. Certainly not as bad as that spawn of Satan from Room.

Okay, okay. I’ll stop ragging on it.

I’d like to think that written in moderation (or as moderately as one could write the kids of the main characters) I can write them reasonably well.

Kids. Even when they only exist in words they can be annoying . . . even if they’re my characters and I’m far too attached to them.

At least I’ll make sure I don’t write them to the same standards of Room . . . Alright. That was the last one.

Till next time.

Laurence out.

Writing Genders In Fiction

Well, I didn’t promise I’d be back soon . . .

Okay, so . . . writing genders in fiction. How do you go about doing it? What’s the right way to do it? What’s the wrong way to do it? How far into stereotypes do you go? Well, I have absolutely no idea. So, it only makes sense that I give advice on the matter, right?

Right.

So, without further ado, here’s my short list of quite possibly terrible points of what to do on the matter of writing genders . . .

1. Do not write genders.

This is my number one golden rule when writing characters and comes before any other. Write a character, not a gender. When you start delving into how you should go about trying to write a convincing male or female or whatever your opposite gender is, you may find that you just end up restricting how far you can go into developing your character. Sure, men and women have some innate differences and experiences, but in reality, every individual is different. And besides, it’s fiction. Who knows what each gender’s role is in the society you’re writing? Have a highly emotional and sensitive man. Have a tough as nails woman who keeps her emotions to herself. Have a man who loves watching sappy soap operas. Have a woman who loves drinking beer and watching sports. Conclusion? Do not get caught up in trying to write a convincing member of the opposite gender. Get caught up in trying to write a convincing character.

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2. Stereotypes aren’t bad if they’re convincing.

In other words. Literally, everything I pointed out in point number one. Nothing further needs saying.

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3. Yes. There are actually differences in men and women.

This is a given. If you’re writing about today’s society, men and women will, in fact, have very different experiences growing up. Again, like the previous two rules, your story does not have to abide by any such social norms. But in general, each gender is essentially programmed by society into behaving as what is considered normal for their gender. And while my next point essentially contradicts my previous two points, it’s still true. Generally speaking, men are more aggressive than women. Generally speaking, women are more emotional and more open to talking about their feelings. Stereotypes. Yes. I am generalising. Biologically speaking, we are different and this does, to some extent, affect how we interact with each other. Without getting too much into such details, if you are really set on shoving it into your readers’ faces that, yes, this character is male, and yes, this character is female, then show how they behave differently from each other, in general. Show how different their daily/morning routines would be, and whatnot.

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4. Friends?

If you have somewhat useful friends of the opposite sex and you’re having issues writing said sex, ask them for help. Not necessarily a rule, but a second opinion couldn’t hurt. They would likely be able to pick up some of the awkward parts in the writing and tell you what sounds right and what doesn’t. Though, if you’re not one for sharing your work . . . well, I’ll direct you to the other rules and rule number five.

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5. Just write!

Don’t worry about whether your character comes across as a realistic male, female, bigender, pangender, agender, or any other other gender identity. You know why? Let’s go back to rule number one: Do not write genders and Every individual is different (Shh, I can definitely quote myself). Write a realistic character.

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I’m just going around in circles now, it seems. I should stop here, then. Hopefully I’ve helped someone get around any issues they had, writing their characters. I probably haven’t but hey, here it is. In my opinion, if you only go by one of them, make it number one.

So . . . if you like taking advice from an eighteen-year-old who is probably one of the most unproductive writers you will come across, I’ll be back soon with more . . . “advice”.

Till next time, guys.

Laurence out.