Friday, May 23, 2014

Not Me

   I have difficulty writing characters. I've always preferred coming up with plots or cool twists to character arcs, while never actually being able to move the character along the arc. Still, characters are the heart of the story. They carry the reader throughout a story and without good characters, even the best plot is brought down. Therefore, I write characters as well as I can. In order to keep from falling into cliches, I craft all my characters after the character I know best: my own. This works well for villains as well as heroes. Unfortunately, especially since my stories are told in first person, all the characters end up feeling like they all have the same character.
   So I am learning as I go. I try to craft each character after myself, as to capture a sense of realism, while still making them separate from myself. The hardest part, interestingly enough, is realizing that not all people have the same morals and ideologies that I do. Naturally, this is most easily recognized in the villains. Villains do horrible things, sometimes thinking it is admissible because of the goal and sometimes just doing it for fun. However, their deeds are recognized as horrible. I don't have to wrestle through with the question of whether a good character should do that thing because the character is evil! It is much harder to have a good character do a deed which, though it disagrees with my morals, is not actually wrong.
   Say, for instance, Rambo becomes angry and kills someone out of revenge. That is wrong. And even though he is a good character, that is explained because he has shortcomings. However, to have Rambo do something which I disagree with, such as go to war, is harder for me to write because I have not put myself into the mindset of someone who believes in Just War. Rambo, by doing that, is not wrong. People can be good and noble and disagree with me. In actuality, it brings more realism to my writing to have characters which disagree. The challenge is to write well characters who disagree with me.
   There is another challenge in this 'character writing' stuff: lack of redemption. I'm the type of person who wants all the bad guys to apologize at the end and everyone to live together as one big happy family. Sure, it's cheesy, but wouldn't that be amazing? All I would have to do to stop a mugging would say, "Hey! Stop that!" and the mugger would apologize and we'd go out for tea. That's not how it works in life, and, therefore, that's not how it should work in stories. Yes, there is redemption in life, and there can be redemption in story. However, not every character gets redeemed and that must be recognized. Sometimes it takes leaving the villain to die to truly create good art. Sometimes, in life or in story, people must be left to their own devices. They may choose good, they may choose bad. But in the end they must choose. If Rambo decides he wants to become a greedy millionaire who rips animals off until everyone around him is poor, and chooses to stay that way, then do I have the guts to let him stay there? Sure, the other characters (Butch and Spot, etc) will try to change his mind. But some character's minds just won't be changed. Do I have the courage to say, "I have my morals and you don't and, even though it's sad for me, I'm not going to force you to change."?

What about you? Have you ever really connected with someone who has different morals than you? Have you ever had to allow someone to go their own way in life? Comment below and tell me about it!

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