As a writer, this is a big question every time I sit down to write. What do I want my characters to embody? Is it something that I resonate with or is it something against everything I believe in. People are not two-dimensional beings and I don’t believe that characters should be either. People are extraordinarily complex and rarely have a single clear cut reason for doing anything.
For example, someone who volunteers at a food pantry may have a myriad of reasons that they do so. Their parents may have done so, so they do it out a sense of familiarity and tradition. On the other hand, maybe they grew up poor and were often hungry, so they want to give back so others don’t feel that pain. Maybe their love language is feeding others, so it’s a way to share their warmth with the world. Or it could be something else. They were caught shoplifting and ordered by the court to do community service. Maybe they’re looking for someone to do a criminal act for them and think that they can find that person amongst the homeless and people down on their luck. Could be that they are just doing it for appearance’s sake, so they can look like good citizens. The possibilities are endless.
So what are some traits that I look for and prize in my characters?
I can deal with a lot of less than ideal traits in my characters, after all, they would be no fun if they were perfect. However, if they are disloyal, they are the villain. Someone who turns their back on their friends and family is not someone that I want to associate with at all.
They don’t have to be a bleeding heart that tries to fix others woes but they have to have a sense of humanity. They have to be willing to extend a helping hand to those around them and to accept help that it offered to them occasionally. They have to see the problems around them and not just look away but try to help out somehow.
They have to have a sense of humor. It can be subtle, witty, dry, odd, any type you can think of. But if someone is serious and straight laced all the time, they quickly become boring and two-dimensional in my mind. I soon lose all interest in them and they fade away in my stories.
What sort of traits do you look for in characters?