07 October 2011

Positive and Negative Character Traits

When I started writing, my characters had to be the best – looks, habits, talents.  But in making them super-people they aren’t loveable, or even likeable characters, and certainly not believable.
A gorgeous looking, multi-talented character, is someone a reader will hate, or at best, find hard to relate to.  I knew this as a reader, but it took me longer to make that leap as a writer.
Generally speaking we are made up of positive and negative characteristics, and those can also depend on circumstances.  Push the wrong button and you may see something that surprises you.
Character traits are rarely all good or all bad.  A positive trait taken to an extreme can show negative attributes, and vice versa.
Last night I watched an old episode of CSI.  Hodges is an annoying character; he has an array of infuriating habits, and irritates most of the other people he comes into contact with - including me, and I'm just watching the show!  This particular episode had Hodges getting the other technicians together to come up with something new in the miniature murders case.
In one scene the technicians are profiling the miniature murderer, and as they list the characteristics it's obvious they could be describing Hodges.  Without looking up from what he is doing Hodges calmly says, (words to the effect), ‘How could it be me, I spend all my time in the lab.’
In that one sentence Hodges totally redeemed himself.  He took the joke, wasn’t annoyed, and showed he is self-aware.
Our protagonist should be human not superhuman, and that means they need a few flaws.  Our antagonist should have reasons for acting the way they do.  We may not agree with what they do, but at least we know why they act that way. 

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