Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pushing your Characters

One of the hardest things about inventing characters is inventing his or her breaking point. It's hard because a) I don't want to know my characters' breaking point because I don't want to hurt them and b) my characters are stubborn. Most of their breaking or snapping points are pretty extreme. 

What do I mean by breaking point? I mean the thing that can make your character completely snap. It makes the character stop acting like him or herself and causes them to do things they would never do otherwise. Sometimes it's a good thing. In 'Ember Flame', something awful happens to a person Ember loves very much, and it forces her to confront her feelings towards Elethor (God), which have been ambiguous, at best, up until that point. The results turn out good. But other times, it's bad. in 'Hail Frost', Hail sometimes makes questionable moral decisions because of certain people being hurt or in danger. That's bad. 

I don't use the 'breaking points' for all of the characters. I don't use the emotional 'breaking points' for the villains usually because 'breaking' typically makes a character look weak. I don't want my villains appearing weak. I do use it for Valin though, but that is only because when he emotionally breaks, he becomes violent and cruel. That's good, for a villain. 

I'm not sure if this post is making much sense. Maybe I should clarify myself a bit better. 'Breaking points' can create three different reactions in characters: a positive reaction, a negative reaction, and a neutral reaction. A breaking point that causes positive reactions causes the character to make the right decisions. Perhaps it is for the wrong reasons (revenge, anger, etc.) but the character will do the right thing despite it. Here is an example of a breaking point in Once Upon a Time causing a positive reaction.

Henry's coma causes Emma to finally believe in magic, which then results in her intense effort to break the curse. That's positive.

Neutral reactions are reactions that are not particularly bad or good, they are just reactions. The new Star Trek movies offer a perfect example of a neutral reaction of a breaking point. 

Spock's reactions to the bullies is completely uncontrollable. He simply reacts. He's not trying to do anything good or bad, he is simply being emotional.

Negative reactions are always fascinating, especially if it is a "good" character. Finding the breaking point that can make a good person do something bad, or even evil, can cause a lot of strong conflict in a novel- emotionally and physically. Here is a negative reaction from Doctor Who. The Doctor has just lost Rose Tyler, a friend he was in love with. The loss and loneliness causes him to brutally murder the Racnoss' children where before he might have found a different way to make them leave earth.

Sorry this post was so choppy. Some of my classes have ended, so I have a bit more time for blogging, but my brain is kinda scattered. I have an AP English test on Friday, and then I have to begin studying for the SAT. Sigh. Can I just go be a hermit somewhere? Just me and a Netlfix subscription? That would be great. Anyone have a secluded cave or hut for rent? 


  1. Good post
    I always think: oh, but I don't want to do that to my poor character!
    But if it improves or moves along the story, I suppose I must.

    We do have a mud hut out in the back...its just a little crumbly.

    1. Thanks! :)

      Same here. I don't like hurting my characters. Sometimes I want to put my villains in time out, but that's really the worst thing I want to do. I love my characters, and I know they know that... maybe... ish... (sigh).

      A mud hut, you say? Hmm, I think that could work splendidly! Is there room for one grumpy teenager inside? :P

  2. Its so hard to make your characters struggle and be vulnerable. I usually tend to make them do everything right. But it makes the story so much deeper when something bad happens, and they have to decide if they will break or push through it.

    I’ll probably have to take the SAT soon too :( Totally understand how you feel

    Ruth Newton