Problem Child


I have a problem character. He’s essential to the plot, with one ongoing vital role and one key act. He’s important to the main character. He’s ‘inspired by’ (as in, no longer similar in any way) someone I know and love very well.

And I can’t get him down on paper satisfactorily.

Last night, in exasperation, I filled in a character interview for him and came to a realisation – he doesn’t exist on his own. Up until now I’ve only ever really considered him in terms of how other characters interact with him, but actually that’s not enough. There needs to be a stand-alone individual behind it all. The trouble is that now I can’t very easily think of him on his own terms, having been so used to thinking through the viewpoint of the narrator character (who doesn’t really know him that well). The raptor volunteered to brainstorm him, and did a fantastic job. The character now has emotions, drives, and dreams. But he’s still a problem child because it turns out that he’s seriously messed up, and I’m really not sure how to write that from an outside perspective. Why do my characters always seem to end up with some kind of serious mental problem?!

This is something I’ve had issues with in the past, actually. Not the mental problem bit (well, no more than any other dreamer), but the ‘darkness’ thing. In my head, everything’s Disney Technicolour but as soon as I present it to other people it goes all noir and bleak. Very strange. This is particularly true in roleplay games I run, where the character party does suffer as a result of my obsession with consequences to actions. I’m not sure whether it’ll be true of my writing as well, since I haven’t shared a completed book with anyone yet, but I have my suspicions…

One response »

  1. I find that characters without flaws are a bit dull. Unless their ‘perfection’ is either central to the theme of the story or a flaw in itself.

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