Tips on Writing Better Characters Part 1

So I’ve realized something… My whole ‘This is a book review site’ idea got completely skewed and I’m not sorry about it. I’m a writer, and I’ve encountered a problem a lot in my books, and in characters that I make up, and that is that they all fit the same mold. Now, sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, like me and my strong female characters. But I also have a thing to write girls that don’t follow the rules, are good with a gun, and don’t do romance. That’s good, to have maybe one person every couple books like that. There’s this one thing I’m writing where she’s so unique, I couldn’t ever write anyone like her again. So… maybe you have a Mary Sue mold for your characters.

Quick: take this quiz in the mindset of your character. It’s long, and maybe not entirely accurate, but it can give you a good idea. Here’s the link: http://www.springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm  Doesn’t matter if your character is a girl or not, it could still be a Mary Sue.

If you don’t know what a Mary Sue is, here’s a quick description:

A Mary Sue is a character- guy or girl -who is given or expected to be given unwarranted preferential treatment and unearned respect, thereby compromising the integrity and believability of the story and/or characters.

Usually Mary Sues have few if any problems and challenges in the story/book.

 

Basically, Mary Sues are meant to be the pretty girl that everyone loves.

 

I took the quiz with my main who is meant not to be a Mary Sue, and I actually found that according to this test she is a total Mary Sue, but I don’t think so. Use common sense when designing characters. This simple checklist has helped me:

  1. Does the character serve a purpose in the plot besides being a pretty face?
  2. Does the character have conflicts?
  3. Do the laws of the universe bend around the character?
  4. Do the rules the character break catch up to him/her?
  5. Can the story go on without the character?

If you said no to more than 2 of them, your character may be a Mary Sue. The quiz above is much more detailed, but this is as far as I could go.

In order to get out of the Mary Sue pit, try to make your character different. Give him/her a tragic or funny backstory. Make them take revenge. Anything to make your character stand out and be at least semi-independent.

Another type of character pitfall that I’ve heard of is the Despie, play off of desperate. Despies are people who crave attention, such as bright hair, flashy car, hot boyfriend that’s purely for looks, stuff like that.

Quiz to see if your character is a Despie: http://www.springhole.net/writing/despietest.htm

Not as long as the other one, but still nice. In my opinion, being a Despie isn’t so bad. It’s okay to have a flashy character, I like writing them as much as I like writing characters who are really secretive and introverted.

On that subject, there’s another type, and I don’t have a quiz for this one because I didn’t steal it. It’s the brooder. It’s the Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s Nico di Angelo from Percy Jackson, it’s anyone who sits around feeling sorry for themselves. 
It’s also Edward Cullen. 
There is a quintessential difference that makes Angel a good brooder and Edward not. Angel does stuff. Angel falls for the strong one. Angel is protective, and actually cares. Edward does some stuff. Edward falls for the person who can inflate his ego. So, this makes Angel a good brooder, because he actually has a reason to brood. He’s done incredibly horrible things in his life, and now has to have it sit in his gut for the rest of his life.
Edward? Edward’s just moody. He’s essentially an angsty teenager. Forever.
 
Can you get that I really really prefer Angel over Edward? Or Ed Elric over Edward?
You can? Great, my point came across perfectly. 

So my point is that a couple brooders here and there through your books is good. My max is one per book, that’s it, if any.

I think I’ll end it off there, I’ll probably be making a part two in the future but for now…

See you~

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Richard Anthony Butler
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 10:41:19

    I read your blog- ego should be boosted? I agree with you about Angel vs Edward. Never heard of semi mary-sues- which is how i found your blog. Good luck with your writing- hope I can read it some day. When you read about the back story for the Lord of Rings you can understand that you might need to be a little obsessed to create a world that detailed- and why so much writing is formulaic and sketchy. I read that Larry Niven had filling cabinets of notes about the Kzinti that never got included in the story.

    Reply

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