In the last post, we looked at three markers of a memorable character: strength, conviction and values, and desire and need. In this post, we’ll look at inner conflict, self-regard, and the idea of her being larger than life.
Inner Conflict: Struggles leave a far deeper impression than accomplishments
A character’s desire opposing a root need creates great, memorable inner and outer conflict. But don’t forget: a character’s contradictory sides also makes them unforgettable. After all, someone who is wise, visionary, charismatic, courageous and honorable is also uninteresting if that’s all she is. A person who is brave but reckless, strong but faithless, intelligent but narrow-minded is a lot more compelling.
I think Donald Maas does a great job describing inner conflict in his workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel. So here’s a quick quote from it:
“Inner conflict. When it is powerfully portrayed, it lingers beyond the last page. Readers seek to resolve it. They will mentally talk to your heroine, trying to make her happy. They will imagine scenes in which things come out better for your poor protagonist. Trigger that response in your readers and you will have succeeded in making your character memorable.”
Self-Regard: Readers connect with your hero’s feelings only if she’s aware of them
Characters we remember are characters we connect with. How do we connect with them? By learning, growing and experiencing the story with them. So, whether your character is stoic or emotional, takes herself seriously or light, her emotions must matter to her. Let your readers be with your characters as they measure their growth—or lack of growth—throughout the story.
Larger Than Life: Create believable characters. But let them say and do the things we didn’t, couldn’t or wished and hoped we would.
Don’t think about your characters as just creations you can manipulate. The best characters are the people who seem the most real and most believable. Yet they also seem larger than life. What do I mean by that?
After a conversation or argument with someone, did you ever walk away and suddenly think of a wittier reply or a sharper comeback or, when you were a thirteen year old who bumped into your crush, something better than “Um, hi”?
Well, larger-than-life characters say and do the things we didn’t, couldn’t, or wished and hoped we would. For example, would we volunteer if our younger sister was chosen to fight in a bloodbath? Do we hope we would volunteer?
As another example, let’s look at the Avengers movie. Do you remember that scene in Germany when Loki demands everyone to kneel before him? But an old man stands up and refuses to? You remember that old man, right? We don’t know his name or his history. But he dared to do what no one else in that crowd did. For that, we remember him and his courage.
One Last Thing…
Don’t you think? 🙂