Editing Tip #79 – Honing Character Pt. 1: Remembering their Humanity

Cagged DogWe’d all like to think that our characters, especially our main character(s), are perfect just the way we wrote them. It’s starts with a vision (or a full-blown background write-up) and then you let them loose on the page to tell their story. But no one is ever perfect… even a perfectionist.

It’s our flaws and our character’s flaws that colour the page and make them human.

The Protagonist

Whether he’s a traditional hero, an anti-hero or the “bad-guy” – if the reader doesn’t connect with his worries, motivations, and flaws then we can’t be expected to keep turning pages. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing from the murder’s perspective or a nun… if the reader can’t intrinsically relate to this person then your story doesn’t work.

So how does the average person relate to a superhero or a warlord?

Through the little things:

The Superhero

– she gets a nervous twitch whenever she wonders if her dog is being looked after properly while she’s out saving the world…

– he can’t summon his powers whenever the woman he’s infatuated with is nearby…

– she can save the day but she can’t save her daughter from heartbreak…

– he’s so concerned with saving his city that he doesn’t eat properly and that starts to interfere with his abilities…

The Warlord

– his daughter’s sixth birthday is next week and he still hasn’t bought her a present (one she’ll really like)…

– her mother always favoured her sister when they were growing up and now she has self-esteem issues…

– his grandmother is sick and it’s distracting him from his regular duties…

– her hair is falling out due to stress and wigs look ridiculous on her but she has an image to uphold…

By humanizing your main character(s) consistently throughout your book, your reader is more apt to side with them, no matter how good or bad they are because at the core something made them that way. But regardless of their past, there’s always something in their present that speaks to a normalcy of life where you can’t help but root for them in the end.

As you read through your 2nd Draft be sure to keep your protagonist’s humanity in check. A totally evil villain is just as boring as a do-gooder who leads a perfect life.

Happy Editing!

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Categories: Editing

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2 replies

  1. Great tip, and great use of examples! 😊


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