Characters #6 - Character Depth, Character Building, & Character Don'ts

Start from the beginning

     2nd dimension - Backstory and inner struggles.
Where they came from, the scars and memories and dashed dreams that have left them with resentments, their fears, habits, weaknesses and inclinations that connect to why they are as they appear to be.  
Making the reader understand will result in empathy, a very important key to getting your reader to relate and appreciate the characters.

      3rd dimension - Action, behavior, and world view.
You may have been angry enough to kill someone, or at least punch someone’s life out, at some point in your life.  But you didn’t.  Why?  Because of your character.  That decision defines you.
This is what sets apart the villain and the hero. They may have the same struggles, the same desire, the same longing, but do they both act on that longing? Most likely not. Even though they may both have a desire to kill someone, the hero most likely would not, why the villain would.
It's these decisions that define the character most of all.

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Character Building:

Archetypes. These are not stereotypes, although they can be depending how you write them. The concept, though, is entirely different.

Character archetypes, put simply, are the roles that the character plays that have been established and used before. The hero character is an archetype.

So archetypes aren't bad things at all, but how do you build onto them to prevent them from being the stereotype of that certain role?

Here's a list of some common archetypes, taken from a website:

The Brains: the smart one, the one with the plans, the scientist, etc.

Anti-Hero: the hero who is reluctant to get involves or doesn’t exactly display “heroic” traits

Bully: the antagonist who does not tolerate weakness, preys on the weak.

Coward: afraid of everything, difficulty with standing up to others

Guardian: watches over the protagonist and protects

Mentor: helps the hero understand and work toward his or her goals

The Hermit: usually wants to be left alone, but will help for the greater good

Soldier: strong, muscle type character

Politician: usually a manipulative character who acts in his or her best interest

Artist/Creator: huge imagination, visionary, creative

Victim: was hurt by someone and lives in fear of another character or characters

Visionary: sees how things should be, understands, thoughtful

The Child: Obviously this is very broad, but it usually means a character that brings on new beginnings.

Manipulator: knows how to control others through their emotions and uses it to his or her advantage

Rebel: part of a resistance or revolution, refuses to be part of the status quo

Leader: in charge, competent, people follow him or her

Comic Relief: provides laughter in a story and breaks up the tension

Hero: the main character, always tries to do what’s best, usually has admirable qualities.

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