15 June 2013

So not the Sea of Binary

The usual advice for many writers is Do Not Read Reviews of your work. In an effort to create a bit of research for the blog I decided to do the dirty work and read reviews for you. The common concept I picked up frequently: The character felt flat. Or Very two dimensional creation. For an author, this could potentially be bad.

Characters and plot are the two big things in stories. The thing to realize is that while there are a limited number of plots, there are an unlimited number of characters.

Modern American Politics has placed an emphasis on the thought of there being only two choices. Liberal or Conservative. For gun control or against. For abortion or against. What these politicians always forget is the middle man. They forget the person in the middle who couldn't care less or the one who says it depends on the circumstance. The person who dwells within the gray of the in between.

Other advice books and blog will speak of selecting traits for the characters. I am not arguing that your characters won’t have traits. Here is what I want to offer as a consideration.

A character represents a dot within a three dimensional selection grid. With each trait, characteristic, or concept we add to the character, we move the dot through the grid. This dot may move as the story travels through its paces, because of the changes the plot inflicts on the character and its psyche. This movement could be large or small, but it is still movement. The thing to realize is that the grid is not limited on the choices.

Consider the issue of gun control if you will with regard to your character. To me, this is not a black or white selection for my characters. I have a story where the planet is the far extreme of gun control: No Projectile Weapons. Mind you, I am a huge bow fan so eliminating them has made for a growth in myself as well as my writing. I have another story where my characters are military who have guns attached to them at all times. In a third story, I have a character who prefers to avoid a gun if at all possible, but find a situation where he needs to decide how deep his distaste for guns goes, if he’d willingly die than pick up the thing that could save him. I’ve not reached the end of the story, so I can’t tell you his decision. However, I hope this illustrates the fact that with just three different plots, you have three different viewpoints on guns. This is just a small portion of the character.
Because this isn’t a blog about politics, I’m not going to spout anything about my viewpoints on political issue here. Those looking for that dialogue with me need to understand it doesn’t have a place here.

Obviously, a character’s back-story will effect traits, opinions, and preferences. A woman who has suffered malicious attacks from members of the opposite sex has every right to be militant against them – however that isn’t the only possible response. Some will bow and scrape more because they felt they drew the attack to them.

PLEASE, as you create characters, think about all portions of your character. Don’t just pick a few choice tidbits and label it done. It will eliminate the review line of “two dimensional character.”

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