Do you think you could define yourself using one word? Chances are you couldn’t. Certain things about you may be “normal” or “weird” or “geeky”, etc., etc. but, just like characters, no one person is defined by a single label. We’re made up of far too many pieces of our own unique puzzle to truly be just typical or normal.
At first, when creating a story, we tend to typecast our characters. For example, there are the main “good guys/heroes”, the main “bad guys/villains” and then a supporting cast of characters that could be made of up of the “normal”, the “weirdo”, the “sweetheart”, the “queen B”, the “insensitive jerk”, the “nice guy”, the “double-crosser”, the “nerd”, and that one mysterious “creepy” character that just makes your skin crawl. Speaking of which, what is with that creepy character and why do most stories we read have one? (And yes, we have a creepy character in our story…more than one actually, LOL!).
The point I’m trying to make here is that often, when we initially create characters, we usually give them defining characteristics (i.e. hair color, eye color, age, height, gender, possibly a brief background story, and personality traits such as happy, grumpy, sleepy, dopey, bashful, and any other dwarf that’s not Doc, etc.). This is a natural part of the creation process when we’re first fleshing out the story and we need to know what kind of role this character will play, how they will impact the story, and what they will do. In other words, we are defining who they are, as well as their purpose.
However, for any of you who have written a story, what you’ve likely discovered is that once you move away from the bullet points that have so far defined your character, and you actually begin writing, this character is no longer a stereotype that perfectly fits into the original parameters you created for them. They take on a life of their own and become so much more than a “good guy” or a “bad guy”. They become complex. They develop unplanned idiosyncrasies and many other components that make real people individuals and unique from one another.
Real people are not one-dimensional, which is why characters in a story shouldn’t be one-dimensional, either. If a character is so superficial they can be summed up with a single defining word, they’d be pretty boring in my opinion. They would hold no mystery, because you would always know what they’re going to do, and if you can always predict a character’s next move without fail, you’re in for one very boring read.
I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I respond to characters with attributes I can relate to and who also have traits I don’t personally have, but I find fun, exciting, and appealing. I can admit that when it comes to getting goo-goo eyed over a male character, I’m a girl who is far more attracted to the bad-guy than I am the hero. Why? Villains are fun! They do things and say things that I know are not right, but that I can adore in the fiction world, because in reality I am safe and in control. Equally, I can say with certainty that many of my favorite characters in fiction books are not people I would like in real life, in fact, I’d probably loath more than half of them.
That’s the beauty of fantasy though, isn’t it? You can like people you’d otherwise hate, try new things you’d never do in real life, and walk the dark alley by yourself and not be afraid of what or who may be waiting for you in it. This is why I love reading fiction and I LOVE writing it. Nothing is done that cannot be undone. You are the master of your own universe.
That being said, as I stated in my last post, “Even Superheroes Need Limits”, characters do require certain limitations in order for them to make sense and not be too unbelievable. Nonetheless, these important limits should not restrict a character’s personality to a file cabinet with alphabetized folders.
As Julie mentioned in her blog, “Baking a Cake of Lies”, characters, just like people, will do things that seem uncharacteristic or strange in certain situations with the “right motivation”. There will be times when a character will make unusual choices and act oddly. They evolve with time and change based on their circumstances, just as we all do. As my co-writer perfectly put it in her post – “A character isn’t something that is set in stone.”
Now, to answer the question that I made the title of my post – “If I’m not normal, what am I?” – The answer is I am me. I am not set in stone and I can’t be truly defined by one label, stereotype, or even summed up in a single paragraph or a book series the size of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, no one can…well, no one can apart from those select few individuals who love to prove they are the exception (we all know one).
Thus, as time passes, more pieces are found and added to the puzzle that is me. We’re all enigmas and it’s becoming clearer to me that so are the characters I write.
Thanks for reading!