C – Characters

CIn all of my thinking and planning for the A to Z Challenge, I have found that C is a pretty easy letter to work with. Almost too easy – you end up with too many things to choose from. There are a few letters like that. And maybe why I’m thinking about it is because today’s topic matches what my wife and I are doing on Comparative Geeks: we’re going A to Z characters.

When it comes to writing, though, characters are kings. Even in non-fictional pieces, the subject of the piece often ends up as the character, as we get the history, or current goings-on. Maybe not fully anthropomorphized, but getting there. But when you get to fiction, a story needs its characters, perhaps even more than those characters need a story. I’ve read absurdist literature. It’s doable.

I do a lot of my thinking and writing about Science Fiction, and Fantasy, and it can be easy to get carried away with these sorts of genres… lost in ideas, in world-building, in all of those sorts of gritty details to make the world seem right. Carried away too much, and the characters fall flat, and the reader ends up unengaged. You want a story your reader can get lost in… but for whatever reason, it’s through the exploration and experiences of the characters that we get lost.

Which means the most common sort of character is the one that is a stand-in for the audience, or the one who is new to the world being presented. Whether it’s just the new guy or rookie, or the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court, this character is essential. You don’t want to make them too blank – this is actually something that happens a lot in video games. To give the player the control of the situation, to feel like they are this blank slate character, the character does not speak throughout the game themselves. I think the Nintendo games especially have a lot of this – Link never really gets any lines in the Zelda games!

But even, think of non-fiction, or better yet – think of political speeches. They always seem to reach a point where they need to personalize it, where they have to bring up some real (probably) people in a real place, experiencing whatever it is they’re talking about. They can give you facts and ideology all day, but they give you that character to latch on to as well.

Because let’s face it – characters are a fundamental to stories.

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About CompGeeksDavid
Co-founder, editor, podcaster, web comicer, forum moderator, and writer for Comparative Geeks. Father, husband, geek, nerd, gamer, librarian, Christian, Libertarian, Science Fiction philosopher, and probably a number of other descriptors.

12 Responses to C – Characters

  1. Great reminder for writers of all types -thanks!

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  2. nembow says:

    I love to read all sorts of genre and I think that’s because I’ve been lucky enough to find authors who write really believable and sympathetic characters. I love a good bit of sci-fi, especially the world it’s set in, but it’s the characters that keep me reading. 🙂

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    • I think that’s why something like the Dune prequels took off and are still being created. While Frank Herbert’s son lacks some of the world-building strength or philosophical depth to his writing, he has breathed life into so many of the characters. And so many that I love, who end up dying in the first hundred pages of Dune. Kind of surprising when you return to it…

      The characters are key!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  3. Diana says:

    Indeed…And some characters just stick with you, even after you finish the film or close the book. Those are the ones that are most difficult, but most rewarding, to write.

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    • And for different reasons, right? Some for being so believable, and others from being so unique and different from us. Take the explosion of serial killer stories out there right now – hopefully at least different from us, but somehow strangely fascinating.

      But I think that’s also a lot of the success of Game of Thrones – not only a lot of characters, but solid characters, human characters. All with their own motives, purposes, and lives.

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  4. Gene'O says:

    Yes. Characters are what we relate to. Stories have to be about people, even if they aren’t about humans. And you have a good point about political speeches. I’ve been doing a little work on a political issue lately, and reading a lot of stuff. The two best pieces are ones that talk about how the issue affects the authors’ personal lives. And both contain elements of narrative.

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    • Behind every person who really, truly believes in a political, ideological position, you tend to find a personal story. Maybe more importantly, it seems in every person who changes their mind on a political, ideological position did so because of a personal story or experience – someone they know or met, on the wrong side of the issue, suffering because of it.

      The characters are the people, and people are everything.

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  5. Alex Hurst says:

    Yep, I totally agree! Without the characters, your setting would have nothing acting upon it, and that would be… well, boring… a photograph of a pasture, or an ocean, with no living thing within. Add a whale, or a cowboy on a bronco, and suddenly you have a story. Great post. 🙂

    Alex Hurst, fantasy author in Japan, participating in Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

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    • Or a whale and a petunia, falling from the sky for no reason. Sorry, felt like the space for a Hitchhiker’s Guide reference.

      But really, in a lot of ways, characters are what make Neil Gaiman one of the most interesting writers out there right now. He has a knack for taking concepts and breathing literal life into them. Or even the old gods! Or the TARDIS! So good.

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  6. I think, Characters are ordinary people in extraordinary situations!! Interesting thoughts here 🙂
    Hope you are having a great time reading, writing and connecting with fellow A to Zers, CompGeekDavid 🙂

    Shilpa Garg
    Co-Host AJ’s wHooligan for the A to Z Challenge 2014

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    • Yikes, the WordPress spam filter snagged the post of one of the Challenge co-hosts! Glad I caught that 😉

      My posts have been sparking some great conversation so I think it’s been great! Definitely finding new bloggers to read too!

      Now I just need more time in the day to read blogs…

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