Ever filled out a character chart? They’re kind of fun.
Some are simple–eye and hair color, complexion, birth order, build, birthdate, etc. Others are more complex with questions such as, “Who was his first crush?” “What did he have for breakfast?” and “Where was his mother when she first balanced a bicycle?”
It’s easy to be quick and throw out cute answers, but take your time and think about your hero/heroine’s backstory. (The dreaded BS is necessary here.)
The answers I mentioned above are important (maybe) but it’s the question behind them that makes a difference. A good character chart will tell you something about the man inside the man. (Or woman inside the woman.)
Your answers should come from the reason why a hero is what he is. The background that carved out his personality. Why he steps up when an emergency happens rather than running away. Or why he runs away when an emergency happens.
What means enough to your hero that he would give his life to protect it.
These things will never come up in most stories, but what he says and thinks and how he acts comes from his most deeply rooted being.
Wait? Did you say a hero who runs away during an emergency? (GASP!) Doesn’t sound like hero material, does it? But it absolutely could be.
The worst mistake is to make one or both of your main characters perfect. That would make them two dimensional. And who wants to read an entire book about a cardboard cut out?
Remember those children’s magazines they had in doctors’ offices when we were kids? There was one that had a cartoon about two boys–a very, very good boy and a rascal. You were supposed to decide if you wanted to be around the good kid or the bad one.
Goody Two Shoes always washes his face and hands and combs his hair before he goes to the lunchroom.
Badly Bad Boy plays on the playground until the last moment, then runs straight to the lunchroom without washing.
Which do you want to be like?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed a little vinegar with my greens.
Without some imperfection in your characters, even the best story in the world is bland.
Do you have a favorite character chart you use for each story? Care to share? 🙂