Emotional Hypochondria

Character-driven stories not only must present characters with a well-defined protagonist and antagonist. The characters themselves cannot appear ‘perfect’ to our readers. Characters must have flaws.

What would happen, then, if you presented an antagonist who is an organized extrovert, who intuitively analyzes complex topics, and approaches his or her future using strategic, subjective criteria? In other words, a natural leader whose major flaw is transposing other people’s problems onto him- or herself. Here we have a leader too involved and getting caught up in another person’s plight and begins trying to fix something in themself that doesn’t need correcting.
In all of the research into characterization that I have done over the last few years without exception identifies one central point. As a story-crafter, the more detail we know about our characters before we write them onto the pages of our history, more masterful people, not caricatures, will inhabit our universe.

Okay, okay, okay! I hear you, as a pantser, did I not just lay down an argument for plotting? Admittedly, yes. And, no. Having an in-depth knowledge of the people in our stories does not dictate what they will do, nor does it pigeon-hole them into behaving in specific ways. The beauty of human nature is diversity in thought, word, and deed.

Personality types do not dictate how our creations will behave. They are guidelines suggesting possibilities. Our job, the enjoyable part of what we do every day, is crafting plausible arcs. Knowing these things along the way makes it easier by giving us more possibilities to work with.

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