It’s a common struggle among most writers I’ve talked to that we all feel like we start to repeat our characters across projects. Not a blatant ripoff of one’s past cast, per se, but little consistencies that can lead a writer to feel they’re not diversifying their character bank enough.
There are lots of ways to minimize this repetition – one of my favorites is to read, read, read, so that I get a broader scope of the human condition from which to pull inspiration. But today I want to encourage something that I myself am gearing up for in my next WIP – and it scares me!
I’m encouraging you to write the character you dislike.
As readers, I think we’ve all come across a certain “type” of character that rubs us the wrong way. I’m not referring to characters who are inherently problematic, but maybe a personality type, or a professional interest, or even character with a type of belief, behavior, or inborn prejudice that we just can’t stand. For me, it’s super snarky characters, especially females. Maybe because I had a lifetime’s share of snark and shade thrown at me in Middle School by my lady peers and it gives me hard flashbacks every time. But I’ve noticed that my female characters in particular tend to veer much deeper into compassion and nurturing than they ever get snarky or rude.
So that’s precisely what I’m planning for my next WIP. I want to write a snarky, bitter, rude, cagey girl who has a solid reason for being that way, and I want to go on a journey with her and see where she ends up and what I learn about her, and myself, from the experience. And I’m actually really excited about that, because I know she’s not going to feel at all like my other female MCs!
Consider the last character that really got under your skin. Then ask yourself if you can tell a story with a character like that. Can you find out how they got to be that way, and whether it’s something they can, or even should, change? Who knows, you may find a new dimension of your own writing talent as well as gain fresh perspective on that type of character who you just can’t stand!
Is there a particular character type you dislike, but think you could write? Drop a comment below and tell us about it!