Monday, April 04, 2016

Stormy Relationships for Character Development

If you’re trying to create dynamic characters for your stories then you want to create characters that readers can relate to. You want them to have real flaws, so readers can celebrate their successes and growth. One of the ways you can do this is by creating conflict through stormy relationships.
There are great examples of stormy relationships bringing characters together by growth. For example, your hunky hero is a battle scared warrior who was left at the alter by his intended bride that ran off with his brother. You now have a hero that’s ripe for a reader’s attention. He’s hot, burned by love, let down by his family, has trust issues, etc. Then toss in a feisty heroine that’s determined to save her family, but the only way of doing so is by getting the hunky hero to fight to save their land. Her fiery nature will drive him nuts, but encourage his growth. 
The thing to remember is that this is a two way street. You don’t have just one growing and changing. Both will. However, one changes the most. That’s who’s story this is. That’s who the readers will cheer on the most.
Think about the last great story you read. Who was your favorite character? Make a list of that character’s backstory. What do you see? If you see a stormy relationship (romantic, friendship, family, etc) then you just learned a great deal about that character. You may have even learned a bit about yourself as well.
Personally, I read in order to get a break from real life. That doesn’t mean I always want to read a fantastical story that could never actually happen. It just means that I want a story that has great moments. In life we all have great moments. Our characters are no exception. They deserve great moments from us.
One of the reasons that I love Doctor Who is that the Doctor has such a stormy past. There’s good things and then there’s bad things. There’s even horrid things. Yet, everyone is important. Everyone matters. The Doctor has faced extremely difficult decisions in life and been strong enough to make the right decision almost every time. Even if it was a terrible decision. This all brews from stormy relationships. The Doctor and the Daleks. The Doctor and the Cybermen. Heck, the Daleks and the Cybermen.
The depth of character is important as well. Characters have to have purpose. Think about why they are there. Do they offer something to the story? Are they a main character or a secondary character? Main characters should propel the story forward. They should entice the reader to continue reading. Grow and change with the story. We should see this growth throughout the plots and subplots.
Secondary characters are a bit different. They’re not exactly in a story for the purpose of propelling it forward. Their goal is to help the main characters grow. For example, our hunky hero’s brother, the one that ran off with his fiancee, helped created the hero’s motivation to remain free of attachments. The brother also created his conflict. How could the hero trust the heroine when the woman he was supposed to marry ran off on him? Everyone could be suspect at trying to take the heroine away from him. Or he could view all women as being fickle. 
Think about how our feisty heroine would handle that. How she responds to him says a lot about her character development. Maybe she begins questioning herself because her family relationships weren’t great. It could be that her father was trying to get rid of her and created the rift that causes the need for someone to save their land. When the hero begins spouting off about how untrustworthy he views women as being, then this is the perfect moment to show the trauma on her face. This is the perfect moment to showcase just how the heroine needs to change. It’s also the perfect moment to showcase just how far the hero has to go to change in order to be worthy of the heroine. You’re showing your readers so much in this moment. It’s worth it to put some work into it.
A great way to practice is by going through your favorite stories, as I suggested a moment ago. In fact, keep a notebook next to you when you’re reading a book you love or watching a great movie. Write down notes about what you love in regards to the characters. Then write notes about why you think you love it. Try to tie it back to the characters’ development. How many times do you find that a stormy relationship is at the center of the great character? How many times do you relate to the character better because of this past? Also, make note of the types of relationships you see. Do you see family conflict more with heroes or heroines? How about romantic conflicts? How about friendship conflicts? At the end of it you’ll have great notes on how to create likable characters, story ideas, and an idea of what makes a good story great.

We’re all human and we connect in the strangest ways. The thing we all have at heart though, is the ability to move past damaging moments in our past and focus on our future. Our characters should be able to do the same. We’ve all had a stormy relationship at some point or another. They define us and help us grow. That’s how we can help our readers relate to our characters. How we can help our readers fall in love with our characters.


Aidee Ladnier said...

Good advice! My DH and I totally dissect characters in movies. It's fun to plot their arc.

Jillian said...

great post! Love Doctor Who!

Brina Cary said...

For some reason it's just now showing me you guys' comments. :(