Last week I touched on adding the humanity spice to your characters be they good, bad or otherwise. Today I’d like to expand on that notion by adding a few more ingredients to your cooking character.
The key element you’ll need to look at is his/her flaws.
I’m not talking about the little quirks (which are totally necessary but not the big focus) where his girlfriend hates that he snores when he’s lying on his back or that her mother has to straighten her daughter’s flyaway hairs before letting her leave the house. Even those quirks where he has to give his victims wine before feeding on them or the necessity to pray to a god she’s not sure exists before she does a space walk.
Your main character flaw is what drives him or her – their motivating factor.
When it all comes down to it, plot is great but if you don’t have the right cast of characters – the best protagonist and antagonist for the job – then all you have is a grand idea without follow through.
Your villain wants to rule the world?
— and don’t say, “just because” because that’s not an answer…
— and don’t say, “he had a hard childhood and needs to take retribution for that pain” because it’s been done before…
— He watched the “good guys” kill his mother when he was seven years old and despises the system currently in power because he feels they disguise these acts of planned cruelty and only with someone compassionate, like him, running things will other children ever have the chances he didn’t (sounds like the good guy doesn’t it? But it’s not!)
— The tainted magic changed him on a molecular level to the point where he fears he may never recognize himself and in the process of trying to stop or even reverse what’s happening to him he steps on too many toes, breaks too many bones, and turns into the monster he’s trying to fight without even realizing it (a take on Jekyll and Hyde anyone?).
And what about your protagonist? Reading about a woman who risks her life as a firefighter because she’s noble and good and just does that sort of thing is, quite frankly, boring.
— She liked to play with fire and when she was ten years old burned her house down with the only survivor being her baby sister who was badly burned. To this day she anonymously visits the poor girl in a home but lives with the fear of being discovered/caught by anyone trying to get close to her.
— She’s the only one capable of guiding a group of ignorant and yet innocent people into the death zone that are the Deserts as they blindly follow a man who claims the past can solve the problems of the future. She is forced into taking on this job but she doesn’t believe in letting the innocent suffer… not like her parents did when they abandoned her as small child (my story!).
The imperfect hero or reluctant heroine will not always be your protagonist, but what you need to remember is that readers love to learn about the scars and the things kept hidden which drive the needs and desires of our main characters.
By flushing out the background for your protagonist and antagonist and continually asking yourself, “Why?” eventually you will get to the real reason behind what drives the people who live in your mind 😉
Just remember that the key to baking the perfect story is adding just enough of the right spice and letting it heat up a little at a time until it’s done.
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