This post, by Suzannah Windsor Freeman, originally appeared on her Write It Sideways site on 12/3/10.
I read a novel from cover to cover yesterday, which I don’t do very often in such a short time span. The premise was really good, and I was interested to see how the plot would evolve.
At nearly one o’clock in the morning, I finally put down the book (actually, I put down the Kindle) and was disappointed—not with the story itself, but with the characters.
What could have been a well-written and thoughtful novel ended up falling short of its potential because some of the characters were one-dimensional. And there was one character in particular (the protagonist’s love-interest) I thought really let the story down.
He was just…well…way too perfect.
Do you recognize any of these three signs that your own novel’s characters might be too perfect?
1. You spend a lot of time describing your characters’ good looks.
Sure, in many cases we expect the protagonist’s love-interest to be beautiful or handsome, but that’s not a license to go on and on describing a character’s perfect looks. And hearing too much about how good the protagonist looks can even make readers feel resentful or like they can’t connect with the character.
On the flip-side, sometimes an author goes to pains to assure us that said character really does have flaws, but we generally remain unconvinced by the quirks or small details that are meant to make them less-than-perfect.
There are ways to show your readers that a love-interest is attractive without going into the gory details. What’s more important than how the character looks is how the protagonist feels when he or she is around that person.
Writer Caro Clarke gives practical advice on how we can describe our characters through their actions, instead of their looks.