Characters #8 - The High School Student, The Villain, & The Best Friend:
THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT:
I've answered questions in the past regarding writing high school aged characters, because it can be a tricky subject if you're younger or way older than this age you're writing about. Even when you are a high school student yourself, you have to remember:
1 - Your character won't be able to represent ALL high school students: There will be some readers that won't be able to relate. Think about your school experience. Is everyone in your school the exact same? No way! So your character can't be like everyone at once, and that's okay. You won't be able to appeal to every single personality type, so just choose a specific one and stick to it.
2 - DON'T talk down to your readers: I would expect that most people wouldn't do this. However, if you're out of high school already and writing a high school story, the age may seem a little young for you. Don't get the mindset, though, that you can talk down to your high school aged readers in the way you write! Teenagers in this time of their life are starting to become extremely independent and finding their own way in life, and would most likely hate your book if the style treated it's reader like he/she was dumb.
3 - Avoid certain stereotypes: It's okay to have a jealous character, or a character with an intense crush on someone cute, or someone who's shy, etc. I wouldn't qualify those as stereotypes, because those are personalities and attributes you will find everywhere, and pretty much everyone gets jealous at some point in their life. Just try to avoid the cookie-cutter high school setting, with the blonde, rude cheerleader, and the shy nerd, and the player jock. Maybe the jock is the shy one and the nerd is the player? See, it's not the personality itself that's a stereotype, it's who you assign the personality to.
4 - Setting is important: High school experiences will be different all around the world! So if your story is set in another country or place you aren't familiar with, do your research. Research how the school system works, talk to people from that country about the atmosphere or culture in their school, and see how it differs from your native country.
This is also important if you aren't yet in high school. Research! And make sure you write your character's maturity level to fit their age. (If you're a 12 year old writing about a 17 year old, don't make this 17 year old act like a 12 year old...)
5 - Explore the vulnerability: At this time in life, most teenagers are starting to figure out who they are, where they want to go with their life, and other major decisions. We can be extremely vulnerable with our feelings and thoughts, and that's why a lot of young adult books address the whole "coming of age" part of a person's life, and the difficulties that come with venturing into adulthood. This isn't a bad idea to use, since it should definitely resonate with your teen readers!
Villains are fun to write. They're so fun because you get to create such a rich past and history that made them who they are, and you get to design their evil ways.
So how do you create a deep, thought-out villain who will 'wow' your readers and also be believable?
1 - REMEMBER, they are doing the right thing in their own mind. -Most evil people don't do evil things just for the fun of it. (Some do, but most don't.) While their idea of 'good' may be twisted, there are usually good intentions behid evil doings, such as revenge (usually called 'justice' in their own minds), social cleansing, ridding the world of 'bad people' in their mind, etc. Even Hitler thought he was doing the world good, though we all know his way of thinking was twisted and sick. He himself probably didn't sit on the couch and think about how evil he was!
2 - Create a valid reason why your protagonist should hate the antagonist: -Or they don't neccesarily have to hate them, but create a believable reason as the why the antagonist is the antagonist. Don't just put them there for the sake of tension and conflict. What have they done to deserve this role?
3 - Develop their backstory: -Just as much as you do for your MC. You want a believable villain? Write a past the readers can believe in. Give them a past so that the readers go "Oh...I see why they went bad now..."
4 - They're still human (usually): -Someone who is purely evil just because isn't going to be believable. They deserve some redeeming qualities, just like your MC must have some flaws. If you try to make them completely evil with the intention of forcing your readers to hate them, you won't come out with a believable character. Maybe they have mercy on a child, or become less menacing when they hear a sad tale or see destruction, maybe they have major regrets, etc. It's your character, see what fits.
5 - Other sources: -In Yuffie's Writing How-To's, the types of villains and mindsets are addressed under "how to write villains", and I doubt I could do it better justice than it's done there. So I suggest you all drop on over there and have a peek at that chapter. :) I also included a link in the external link for another indepth article about writing villains!
THE BEST FRIEND:
This is an archetype used in most novels. (Archetype, not stereotype!) How do you use it to it's full extent?
1 - Give the best friend their own problems: This character shouldn't just be written in to react to the main character's issues or situation. They have a seperate life and problems. They need motivation of their own as well, and reasons for helping the MC.
2 - Flaws: Flaws are beautiful things, and don't neglect your secondary characters by forgetting to make them multi-demensional! The best friend character can often be nearly as important to the story as the MC, so don't forget to give them their flaws and redeeming qualities.
3 - They aren't just the comic relief: While it's nice to have a character that provides humor, try not to make the best friend a superficial being, especially if they're involved in the story often.
4 - Give them their own moments: Playing off of the last note, if the best friend is involved a lot in the story, give them a shining moment or two. They don't have to overshadow the MC, but maybe they can solve a problem that's been stumping everyone. Give them a moment to shine!
5 - See through their eyes: As the writer, stop for a moment and imagine things through the best friend's perspective, based on the indiviual personality you've given them. They won't see everything the exact same way as the MC, so make sure their differences are reflected in your book. You can have them be compatible without the best friend being the MC's clone.
That's all for now! Short chapter, once again, but we're just about to finish up this whole "Characters" section and move on to other topics! :)
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