It’s The Old Paul Harvey Thing: The Rest Of The Story

So there’s a story in the news right now about some magician found dead outside the doors of the, err, “magician’s guild*”.

*Sorry – have to put that in quotes because it makes my computer-rpg-nerd nerves tingle…

Now, if I was a plot guy – more specifically, if I was a crime/mystery guy – I’d be all over this story. I can sit here and just imagine all kinds of theories…

Potential villains abound!

But…

I’m a character guy.

No one killed this magician, he was depressed.

Because of failure and frustration in his career…

Because the girl down on the third floor would never talk to him…

Because he owed money, and the debt collectors wouldn’t leave him alone…

Because he actually wanted to be a cop, but the old convictions kept him out…

Because he was a direct descendant of Odin, and the Templars could never let him live…

Oh, God, I love making shit up.

This is why I gave up on ‘real work’ as a career: how many bosses want some bitter sales & marketing monkey who can’t help but make up the most convoluted, impractical theories on the face of the planet?

God forbid I ever become that boring guy who says, “Naw, it was just bad luck.”

It can actually be somewhat hard to “think around corners” when it comes to characters. What I mean by that is it can be hard to look for the unusual, less-common answer. It is far easier to use the surface answer when it comes to motivations and backstory than it is to make a character a unique, memorable individual.

But who are the characters you remember? That’s right, the individuals, those with some depth and some honesty…and with real, honest-to-God flaws.

Lestat was an interesting character because he was somewhat unique at the time he was created. Since Anne Rice wrote Interview With A Vampire, however, that whole thing has been done to death…and in all those thousands of stories how many had interesting characters*?

*And by interesting, I don’t mean the romance-softcore porn that is normal for the genre – hey, I like Kate Beckinsale’s ass, too, but it wasn’t enough to make the Underworld series any good…

I’m a fan of Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series because of the characters and the writing, first and foremost. Only after that does my love of history start to play a role. But which of those characters is the most memorable and interesting?

The most flawed and fucked-up one, of course (just as he was in real-life): Sulla. I’ve written academic papers on Marius, Caesar and Augustus; I know them very, very well. But Sulla? He’s the one that really sticks with you because there is more, err, there there.

So, when it comes to your own characters, are you worrying about the rest of the story? Not what serves your story, but what defines their story (the bigger picture that makes them unique). Are you committed to what makes them the people they are, warts and all?

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