The 10 Worst Character Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them!by Skye S, Tuesday February 9, 2016
The good, the bad, and the ugly of character development
A helpful blog on just how to go about creating the characters in your writing
To create a character that is both exciting to read about as well as easy to relate to is not easy! Even published authors make mistakes when it comes to this quandary – and here is a list of the ten worst mistakes. Instead of pointing the finger at other authors who've made some of these ones - we've added a few tips too to help you improve your own characters when you write.
Here are what we consider to be the ten worst mistakes to make in developing your characters:
Too many Point Of Views
Have you ever read a book where you were just like “no, not again” every time the POV (point of view) changed for the 100th time? Too many POVs can prevent the reader from relating to any one character, especially if the reader has to get into a character’s mindset in order to do so.
When the character is too casual
Sometimes a character acts too casual. When the protagonist finds out, for example, that she has superpowers, or it turns out that her parents aren’t her biological parents (because she's an alien, or whatever) then the reader is naturally going to want a reaction. And maybe you just want to show that your protagonist is as cool as a cucumber when it comes to handling pressure, but be careful. They can also seem unreliable.
Too much information
We do not need to know the color of the protagonist’s boyfriend’s socks. Or the name of every plant the protagonist passes on her way to school. The reader will hate an irrelevant list of information and details that has nothing to do with the story.
Too many characters
As with any story, it can get overloaded with the details, resulting in what we'd like to call an overdose of characters. Sometimes we have a big cast of minor characters who have no influence whatsoever on the plot. A reader should never have to turn back the pages to find out who a character is.
When you start out with the wrong character
Sometimes a story starts out with one character, but then suddenly after a few pages that character dies, and then the actual story begins. Then the reader might feel tricked, because he/she really tried to get into that first character and then suddenly that character is gone :-( Surprises can seem exciting, but they can also be a detriment to your plotline if it doesn't all come together in the story. Those kinds of surprises work best for prologues because then the reader knows that the story hasn’t started yet.
When a character is too perfect
Characters needs to be both interesting and relatable (did we mention that? ;-) – and often enough they’re also really pretty. Sometimes they’re both really pretty AND kind AND sweet AND everyone loves them – they’re simply perfect. And that’s boring. There is no suspense, because there’s no potential for development. If the protagonist is already perfect then no matter how well-written the story is, it will need more character development for the readers to want to continue. Furthermore perfection is really hard to relate to.
Blah blah blah
Dialogue is awesome – no doubt – and it’s a way better to show your protagonist through the way he/she talks, rather than simply telling the reader what is being said. Characters need to do more than just move their lips though. It is so annoying when you lose the overview of who is saying what - the reader wants to know where they are and what they’re doing!
Some things are more essential that others, and the reader should be able to tell through the way the story is told. Imagine watching a movie from only one angle without any zoom. Some stories feels like that, and then it’s impossible to get in to the characters. Some things should be written with details, other things should just be kept brief.
A passive protagonist
Some protagonists just walk around and wait for something to happen instead of making it happen themselves. We want to read about a protagonist, who is a part of the story – not watching from the sideline.
Show, don’t tell
A classic mistake. A lot of authors just tell us, what the protagonist did (She walked down the street. She was afraid that someone was following her) but what we really want to know is HOW she did it and how it felt or looked to her (She walked faster. Her steps sounded way too loud against the pavement on the empty road. Was it a mistake? She caught a glimpse of something. A movement. A shadow.)
So what SHOULD you do to create a good character?
First, try not to make these mistakes :-) It's easier said than done, but if you avoid these ones you are really writing about some awesome characters.
Remember to make sure that your character has a goal. A reason. Something they want to achieve. A challenge, that reveals something about their personality.
Second, give you character a unique voice. Try to remove the speaker tag (the part that says “Oliver said”). If you give your character a unique voice, the reader will be able to tell who is saying what.
Comment below some of your favorite examples of both awful and awesome characters!