Diving into Writing: Characters

I’m writing a bit for work, and writing a bit for myself. This is about the latter.

When you write a story, you have to handle characters. And while making them outrageously over-the-top is always an option (see vangels), sometimes you have to ground them in a little reality.  Or a lot, depending on how you take things.

As many authors know all too well, it’s easy to hand-wave anything a character does. Is he rich beyond all imagining? No need to show people how he makes money! Can she do death-defying balletic acts in the middle of a firefight? Then she never gets bruised, scratched or wounded!

But soon the sheen of having a character who can effortlessly do anything they want fades off, and it feels boring. Unreadable. Where did the excitement go? The fun? The fantasy?

Yet limiting your character from the get-go also has its complications. You need to get into the character’s headspace. Find out their way of thinking, their motivations and desires. In some cases, it’s fun. In others, it lends to a colorful browser history (among others).

I have a character at the moment who happens to be a professional thief. He has a simple life philosophy: if he can take something, it’s his. It doesn’t matter what it is, or who owns it, or what the reprecussions are. The only thing that stops him from stealing something isn’t the law, or a moral compass, but the inconveniences involved – paperwork, taxes and accountants are the only hindrances to his impulse control issues.

Of course, there are consequences for his actions. And that’s where the interesting conflicts lie. If he steals a car, how does he get away with it? If he enters illicitly into an apartment, what happens when the owners walk in?

And that’s where the fun begins.

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