Nobody likes a perfect character. Someone who is super good at everything and gets everything right is annoying.
Even the most suave secret agents or indestructible superheroes need to make mistakes in order to make the story interesting.
There are two parts to using wrongness in a story. There’s the actual mistake (which sometimes isn’t known to be a mistake at the time), and there’s the consequences of the mistake, usually forcing the character to deal with powerful feeling of guilt or regret.
The mistake the character makes is more impactful on the reader if we see it happen. In some stories a character may be dealing with something that happened a long time a go. A cop who shot the wrong guy is now a washed up private eye. That sort of backstory is fine, but it won’t have real meaning for readers if they don’t see it happen.
A mistake in and of itself won’t automatically be fascinating. Like any element of a story, it needs to be interesting. If the guy mentioned above was chasing a thief and shot and missed, killing an innocent bystander, that’s perfectly plausible, but it’s also perfectly dull.
There are many reasons for a mistake beyond an accident, and the more intentional and purposeful it is, i.e. the more the character is responsible for his own actions, the better.
Some characters are just dumb. The useless guy in a gang of robbers or in an armyunit. The girl who’s dancing with headphones on while a killer runs round the house stabbing everyone. The kid who never knows what’s going on. These sorts of characters can be very annoying, which is probably why they don’t make for good lead characters (and usually end up dying first).
It can often feel reasonable to attribute a character’s actions to their dumbness, certainly it happens in real life all the time, but you have to be careful not to use it as a convenient excuse for unlikely events. Characters like this are okay in small doses or for comic relief, but nobody wants to follow an idiot around for 300 pages.
Sometimes a character can have strongly held but completely mistaken beliefs. It can be a belief in someone or something. The thing about belief is you don’t need proof. Whether it’s a religion or a best friend, you take it for granted that what you believe is true.
While it’s hard to show that, what you can show is how the character acts because of his or her beliefs. Showing that belief being tested and how the character stands up for their beliefs establishes their position so that when they do make their mistake later on, we can see their reasons.
Unlike beliefs, some character have facts at their disposal that lead them to do terrible things. Taking clear, incontrovertible information and then logically coming to a mistaken conclusion is something that happens all the time. However, in order for the reader to be able to follow why the character does what he does, the writer needs to show that logical progression.
This can lead to long, boring exposition, or it can become very convoluted and hard to follow. But when done properly (and hopefully concisely), it can be very effective.
Sometimes a character can intentionally be given misleading information. Being manipulated by others is a powerful narrative device because it gives the character a definite next step and somewhere for them to focus their anger.
You do have to be careful that you give the misleaders a proper reason for wanting to mislead our hero. Just because they’re the bad guys isn’t going to be enough, they have to have a goal of their own.
Once the mistake has been made, at some point the character will need to realise their error. The way they find out can obviously be many and varied, but the important thing is for it to happen in front of the reader. It also helps if other characters are there to witness it, or maybe even profit by it.
The realisation that they were wrong really needs to be the focus. How a character reacts emotionally to this knowledge, whether guilt, remorse , anger or even denial, will set you up for the next stage of the story.
It can be difficult for a writer to put a favourite character through that kind of experience, but it’s the ideal time to really get the boot in. As long as you keep in mind that they will emerge from the ashes stronger than before, you should be able to convince yourself it’s worth the agony you’re putting them through.
It’s not enough to realise the error of your ways, you have to then decide what to do about it. Whatever mistakes the character made, there should be consequences and repercussions, and the character responsible shouldn’t shy away from dealing with them.
Running away and hiding from the world may seem like a reasonable reaction, and it may even suit the personality of your character, but it rarely serves the story. The whole point of putting a character in this position is to show what they do about it and how it changes them.
A change of heart where we can see the process from beginning to end, why the character thinks one way and what makes them change their mind, is an incredibly powerful narrative device in fiction, and one that requires things to get worse before they get better. But the character that emerges after facing the mistakes they made will be all the more interesting for it.
Having trouble finding synonyms for ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘tan’, etc? Have any clear idea what tone you’re going for? Here’s some web pages for skin tone description and references:
Handy Words for Skin Tone (Includes palettes and comparisons)
More Tone Synonyms w/ Pictures
7 Offensive Mistakes Writers Make (includes more than just skin color)
Okay, you know how hard it is to make those side characters in your writing? There is a website that allows you to create different random identities for all types of characters.
This website literally generates an identity for a fictitious person and makes up the full name of the person, address, maiden name, birthday, blood type, weight, height… and they give it personality - favorite color, website, vehicle, job/occupation, company…
This site is literally amazing if you want to create a random character but you don’t know what to name him/her or you don’t know how to portray them.
You just enter the gender, name set, and the country and hit generate. That’s it. (And yes, you can have Hobbit, Klingon, and Ninja names.)
Here are a few examples:
okay, I hope this helps someone! :) I know it helped me…
Write Real People
click and drag game
- ONE RULE: DON’T CLICK AND DRAG UNTIL YOU FIND SOMETHING YOU LIKE!
- if you want me to add anything just write me. i’ll add that and update the post!
I love all the click and drag games on Tumblr and after I read an article about diversity in YA books, I wanted to make a click and drag “game” myself. (i think this was the article, but i’m not sure, sorry)
Get to Know Me Meme - [2/5] Female Characters: Mako Mori [Pacific Rim]
"It’s not obedience, Mr. Becket; it’s respect."
Genderswap Females by Maby-chan
Disney and Dreamworks’ male characters reinterpreted as females.
I want to be Flynn.
might look a bit weird in your search history, but it’s the most helpful and informative site i’ve found for naming characters. search by letters, meaning, nationality, and syllables, among other things. has intriguing name lists — from harry potter names to oscar winners.
helpful especially for characters in specific era’s, or in specific demographics. holds archives of the united states’ names dating back to the late nineteenth century. also charts the popularity, and other statistics, of names.
very, very helpful for last-minute surnames. wouldn’t recommend for any important, significant, or completely solidified characters, simply because there’s no telling the nationality or origin of the name that comes up.
tracks family names as well as given names through nationality, ethnicity, origin, and popularity, shedding light on the subject of why. huge insight on the origin of naming and what it really means for the individual
some more helpful links
20000names. You can search by ethnicity, gender, origin, and meaning.
feel free to add in any links!
I always prefer my alcohol with bitterness and soul-crushing sadness.
That’s why I love whiskey.