I blog about writing. Sometimes I blog about my own writing progress, other times I dig into some aspect of writing for whoever feels the need for advice and/or information.
If you think about it, complex characters are the Holy Grail of characterization. It's something even some best sellers fail miserably at. Not naming names, but I'm sure you can find a few in your memory where their books had great plot, but almost no character depth.
I also get the feeling that, if you found this post in a search, you're probably plot-driven writer. There's nothing in the world wrong with that. You'll write page-turners, with your natural sense of plot.
You also know that flat characters are standing between your novel and brilliance.
Complexity isn't easy to create, though. Yet it is. Sorry. I know this seems confusing, but bear with me.
Now I'm going to briefly confuse you more. In my own experience of writing, creating a complex character is about not creating him or her. It's simply about creating a character.
But you've done that, you might say.
Yes you have. What you haven't done, is give the reader subtle glimpses of the character's other sides.
Yes, the baddy is amazingly evil. Why? Did someone hurt him? Is he secretly an idealist? Only you know. If your answer is that the baddy is evil because he's evil, odds are he's flat.
Same goes for your protagonist. No person is perfect. And flat, perfect guys are boring. I'm not saying you should go and change the character into an anti-hero. Anti-heroes can be flat too. Because they're just assholes who stumble into saving the day.
Everyone has good characteristics and bad ones. Everyone has things they want and don't want. Everyone has bad moments. Everyone has good moments.
For an excellent and recent example of what I mean, watch Skyfall. The villain is capable of terrible cruelty. He's smart, ruthless and willing to kill to get what he wants. And what he wants is to destroy M.
But. He's not all about murder and bloodshed. A significant portion of him is, yes. But there are moments when M makes him cry. He's even capable of being incredibly gentle and caring. When he tries to convince Bond to go rogue, he tries to make it look like it's the sensible thing to do. It honestly feels as if he's doing it because he thinks he'd help Bond. After all, if he didn't give a damn, he could have killed him. On the other hand, it might be because he knows he'd hurt M by turning Bond against her.
All of that going on with a single villain.
Giving the character a chance to show more than one side to their personality.
Your job is to do it with subtlety. Which is the hard part.
How do you write complex characters?
Before I go, I want to let you know that I'm willing to answer any writing and edit-related questions on my blog and by e-mail. If you have one, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com.
OOH yes! Don't forget to check out my Word Master Challenge. It's a great, fun way to stretch your writing skills and there are prizes to be won.