Last week, I wrote about fleshing out character motivations. This week, I’m going to step it up a notch and write a little on how to create a complex character.
Multi-faceted characters make a book interesting. These characters have conflicting issues they need to deal with, their wants and needs change over time, and they can be confused with changes they experience in the story. Kind of sounds like most people, doesn’t it?
Let your characters have complicated lives and have two desires in conflict with one another. One desire makes a character too plain. Say you have a girl character who wants a dog. There are plenty of children out there who want a dog. How are you, as a writer, going to distinguish this character? You could have the child earn money for the dog. Beg her parents for a dog. Advertise her services as a dog walker so people pay her money to hang out with their dogs. It’s hard to picture this girl, isn’t it? She kind of melts into the background.
But, what if you add another desire, that pushes conflict, to the mix? What if the girl wants a dog…but rather than proving she’s responsible enough to own a dog, she wants to steal a dog? She doesn’t want to keep the dog. She wants to return the dog back to the owner and get the reward money so she can help her family move out from the car and into a home and her life at school will return to normal.
Do you have an image of what this girl is like? I bet this is giving you all sorts of ideas for what her family and friends are like, dialogue, her values, her attitude, her actions, her emotions. But, you’ve got to stop and think of your own story. Because, this book has already been written. And it is called, How to Steal a Dog
by Barbara O’Connor
. Check out the first sentence of the book:
“The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.”
I bet this is something kids are going to want to read to find out what happens next, don’t you?