>Characterisation – 2

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Now that I have made a near miraculous recovery from the dreaded man-flu, I feel able to totter to the keyboard. In my last blog, I promised to develop the discussion on how to create an interesting POV character. We have given our heroes some quirks and inconsistencies to make them rounded and interesting characters.

The next most important thing is that the audience need to identify and sympathise with the characters. They must demonstrate admirable traits that readers aspire to emulate. This does not mean that heroes have to be plaster-saints, Heaven forbid. Nobody is more boring than a saint. A hero may have, should have, faults but they must not be mean, petty or bullying.

For example, consider a classic fantasy hero such as Conan the Barbarian. In one story, Conan is betrayed by a beautiful but treacherous wench and thrown into a dungeon. Naturally he escapes and returns to the wench’s flat to seek revenge. On the stairs, he bumps into her new boyfriend. Both men go for their swords and Conan casually slays the boyfriend. Then he finds the wench and punishes her by dunking her in a cess pit.

Howard depicts Conan as strong, fearless, ruthless and deadly. He kills an armed man who stands in his way without a qualm. The woman is the one who betrayed him but he uses his superior strength to humiliate her, not hurt her. Conan is a thief and a killer but he will always step between a woman and mortal danger. The little boy in all men would like to be like Conan and the vamp in all women would like to seduce him. None of us are anything like Conan but we identify with him.

Heroes need a challenge that tests them to the limit. This can be a problem if you make your heroes too powerful. Devising a plot that challenges a superman is unbelievably difficult – kryptonite anyone?

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