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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