by Susan May Warren, @SusanMayWarren
How do you make your hero or heroine unique? Have you ever written a hero or heroine and thought…oh, they seem just like the last character I created? It’s easy to do – you can only pick so many creative combinations for your character…UNLESS…
…Unless you go about character creation from the inside out. I’ve talked at length about finding an identity for your character unique to him, and then building the “outside” to match that inside identity. However, I have a quick trick to help make him even more unique. To make him stand out on the page without going over the top.
Yes, we’re going to start with identity again, but this time we’re going to focus in on his greatest fear. We’ve asked him about his dark moment of the past, and discovered that fear, and now we’re going to build a FLAW out of that fear.
Consider this: A man’s greatest fear stems from the dark moment in his past when his father’s drunk driving accident killed a man in their small town. Our hero always walked around with this stigma, and feared, one day, doing something to brand his own family. His fear is disgrace. So, his flaw stems from that – he is overly conscious of “doing the right thing.” So much so, it actually immobilizes him because he fears saying the wrong thing. He is often tongue-tied, maybe even wishy-washy, maybe he even runs himself ragged trying to be all things to all people. And his flaw is that he never really gets angry (even when he should) because he fears it.
Now, lets take it one step more. I am going to create One Mannerism that shows this character flaw. Maybe he presses his hand to his chest, taking a deep breath when he is confronted with a problem. Maybe he stutters. Maybe he gets migraines so he is always rubbing his temples. Maybe he drinks milk whenever he goes into a bar. The key is I’m trying to connect his behavior with his flaw with his fear.
Now, I’ll use it in the story in a couple ways.
- First, I’ll have the character simply behave this way as a part of his character makeup. I won’t explain it away with some sort of backstory narrative, I’ll simple embed it into his characterization.
- And, somewhere in the book, I might have someone mention it. “I think you need something stronger than milk, Jerry,” the bartender says to him when he sits and simply stars at the milk in the bar as his life falls apart. Or he is in his office with his head in his hands, rubbing his temples and his secretary brings him a glass of milk and aspirin. “You’re allowed to get angry, Jerry. Preferably before your head explodes.”
Quick Skills: Find your character’s fear and ask: What flaw results from this fear? How can I manifest this flaw in a mannerism or behavior? (Or even a physical attribute?)
Have a great writing week!
Susan May Warren is owner of Novel Rocket and the founder of Novel.Academy. A Christy and RITA award-winning author of over fifty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press and Revell publishers, she’s an eight-time Christy award finalist, a three-time RITA Finalist, and a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award and the ACFW Carol. A popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation, she’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation. A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at: www.susanmaywarren.com. Contact her at: email@example.com.