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Old March 11th, 2017 (2:22 AM).
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Ice Ice is offline
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Something that can really kill a story for me is when the main character is clearly the least interesting character in the story. Just a lense for us to go through the story through. Still, a lot of writers tend to resort to them. How do you guys try to spice up your main characters and keep them interesting? What do you think makes a main character interesting?
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Old March 11th, 2017 (7:26 AM).
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Something I used to do was imagine I was one of the other characters viewing the main character. What kind of person would they see the main character as? Would they think he/she/it/whatever was boring or bland? If the main character is just a lense for the reader and nothing else, switching the lens to another character for a bit would quickly expose them.

Usually at some point before writing or in the very early stages, I like to make a quick biography of the character. Who are they? What do they like to do? What do they not like to do? How would they react in different situations?

If your character has very little to say about them (unless they're a side character, like a really side character) then it might be a good idea to rethink their personality (especially if they're the main character we have to go through the whole story with).

If your character has too much to say then you could have Mary Sue/Gary Stu, which is really just as boring as having a character with nothing. Because a Sue/Stu can do everything and anything the plot needs them to do, there's no struggle or real conflict, which makes them boring for the audience.

That's my two cents :D
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Old March 11th, 2017 (9:27 AM).
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I think my two big ones are passiveness and failing to have a significant flaw. Too often I see the main character as the "vehicle" of the story, and not an active participant. The main character should be proactive in their fate, or what's around them, not merely reactive. In the same vein, the character should have opinions, and while I don't think they should be required to be "wrong" about something, it should be challenged in some way. A good flaw holds the character back in some way, but doesn't cripple them. I see too many "token" flaws that don't impact the character in any way, but they're technically there so characters aren't all positive traits.

Then again, I focus too much on characters who are barely competent. I just like "failing forward" too much.
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Old March 12th, 2017 (12:06 PM).
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It's not easy to avoid having a bland main character. It's something I do worry about, but no one has told me I have boring main characters yet so I guess I'm doing something right (or all my readers have just been super polite XD) I do try to keep them interesting, and they have their strengths, weaknesses and flaws. But my problem is that I end up falling in love with side characters and put a lot more thought into them instead.
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Old March 12th, 2017 (4:25 PM).
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I think a character's motivation is what draws me to them the most. Their personality and such are a bonus, but I'm mostly interested as to what wishes, ideals, etc. they want to accomplish. If they're unsure of what they want, then of what ways they'll figure that out. There should be some struggle of course or else it's boring/no conflict if they get things handed down easily.
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Old March 12th, 2017 (6:05 PM).
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Motivation's an extremely important factor, but it's not always enough to get the job done. My example of that would be One Piece, where Luffy's arguably the least intriguing of the main characters despite his clear and present motivation.

One trick I like using is employing a powerful phobia. It creates moments of tension and struggle while making the characters more relatable/humorous depending on the nature of the phobia. Another way to make characters more interesting is to pit them against situations that they can't handle very well. Take them out of their element and present them with a problem they can't handle very well, and it'll speak volumes about their character, whether they flee, ask for help, or struggle through it on their own.

I've struggled with this in my own writing, and I'd like to think I've gotten better at avoiding it.

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Old March 12th, 2017 (8:26 PM).
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I don't know If I necessarily succeed in preventing bland characters, but one way I try to do this is show that said character in question is more relatable than what was previously written. Like I could write some chapters, and then the low point for the main. He gets upset and depressed and needs the others to cheer him up.

This doesn't always work, and there are other additions that make a good main, but for me a good main needs to be able to in a way "realistic". Like if your main doesn't have seriously mental issues, then I don't see why he couldn't have some mood moments. While this isn't necessary per say, its a trend that I do a lot (maybe to much).

However, a main also needs to be what his name stipulates, "Main". He is the center of attention, the focus of the story. So while he doesn't have to be the best written in character or the strongest of the casting, he is the main focus. So paying attention in keeping the subject in question, likable but at the same time not overflowing him with traits that it floods with unrealism. It's a balancing act to me.
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Old March 18th, 2017 (4:23 AM).
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I came to the writers lounge to post a similar question but I saw this so I just wanted to say thanks.
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Old March 21st, 2017 (12:37 AM).
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I really dislike characters that are too perfect or have no personality, but at the same time it can be really hard to avoid the latter (there's no excuse for the former imo). Lately, I've taken to writing characters who aren't necessarily good people. It wasn't really a conscious decision, but once you stop trying to make your protagonist the moral force of your story it becomes much easier to make them interesting.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago (11:04 AM).
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(This is a sort of old topic but...) in a similar vein to the sentiment of imposing that the protagonist is the flawless enforcer of goodness is respect readers' ability to interpret; let a character's "goodness" be left up to perception. I like main characters that can be discussed rather than those whose moral code is stated upfront and made straightforward. Limiting a character to "good" or "evil" can lock a character into already-stridden territory.

Also, in a story with high stakes, make sure to establish that these stakes also apply to the protagonist, otherwise readers can suffer severe disconnect, as when a stressful situation rears its head, they'll immediately assume the protagonist will triumph unscathed, and this might drive readers to drop your story. At the same time, a main character doesn't have to die to make a statement. Instead, have every tense moment leave an impact, something the protagonist can reflect on.

And finally, though this isn't necessarily bad—tropes rarely are—, consider not making a main protagonist the "Muggle": the straight man, the simple, brown-haired geek in a crowd of rainbow-haired superhero prodigies. Especially for newer writers, failing to invest enough nuances into a lead of this nature that make him or her intriguing even in the midst of a world where everyone else is new and exciting can lead readers to latch onto those side characters instead.

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Old 4 Weeks Ago (3:54 PM).
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To fight this problem, Yarn usually tries to think of them as a main character, but as a regular character. Usually when you take a step back and envision your character as a side character, it can help you think of ways to make them interesting.

Like, when you think of them as a main character, you think more of, "Wow, how are they gonna save the world," or, "Wow, how are they going to drive the plot." That's why side characters are usually more expanded upon, because the author thinks more about their personality and quirks than plot contributions. (keep in mind that plot contributions are important though!)
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Old 1 Day Ago (9:55 AM).
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I have no idea how writers embody boring characters, it just seems an impossibility to me. Quite frankly if I think about it those who use boring characters just seem lazy and probably have no emotional investment in their story(with the exception of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but he was not boring persé).
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Old 1 Day Ago (4:22 PM).
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Originally Posted by ZechronK View Post
I have no idea how writers embody boring characters, it just seems an impossibility to me. Quite frankly if I think about it those who use boring characters just seem lazy and probably have no emotional investment in their story(with the exception of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but he was not boring persé).
Well there are several ways a character could be dubbed "Bland". Keep in mind, bland mains aren't necessarily boring, but mainly empty/lacking/uninspiring/and yes boring is one as well. The issue I see (at least characters I hate the most) are the ones that are the following:

1) Perfect. This isn't inherently bad, but having a perfect character that can do no wrong/isn't bad at anything really makes the main come across as unreal/unrelatable/and basically "Higher than thou". If anything it's a turn off.

2) Lacking in motive. Now I'm not opposed to this if the character starts this way and gradually has reason to, but it really annoys me when this so called "Main" does it without caring or at least showing incentive or reason. It makes the story sound like a filler and waste of time to the pro and is often a reflection on the reader's thoughts.

3) No emotions/internal reasoning. By emotions I mean the reaction to things. I hate it when a character is affected in one time, then shrugs and is back to normal without any reason to nor any reference back to it. Its like he/she pulls off a band aid from a minor bruise. Yes it hurts, but it goes away and the bruise is gone. It's not like it's a real cut which stays for a while and the whole point feels wasted.

4) Without cause/effect/broad mind. Characters that don't feel the world or others around them are pretty annoying. This is one of the reasons I really got annoyed with Yuya Sakaki form Arc V. While I love the story's direction his striving to entertain slowly became annoying and somewhat normalized. He never thinks there's is more to the world solution besides "smiles". I can understand that to a degree but a person that refuses to see and grasp the world around them looks really self focused and lacking in understanding.

5) WTF reasoning. This one realllly gets on my nerves. When a horrible thing happens and the villain is at the persons feet and they just do the most unreal/lack of reasoning/illogical/stupid thing and don't seem to give a care about the weight of the actions. I can maybe see past this if the intention was to prove a point or not sink as low, but it's dumb and downright insulting for someone to be so robotic as to not feel anything when probably the bane of their existence or whatever is there and they say. "I win you lose, the end". Where is the reasoning/human reasoning/logic? It's sacrificed for keeping the character "Good" or "strong" in their beliefs. Ugh

But yeah, these things annoy the heck out of me. I try to write characters who are flawed and not on either extreme of the ideals spectrum. Or heck, just showing a character progress or develop is an amazing thing for a story too. While I can understand if my characters don't seem that way, it isn't always about showing your character's inner side 24/7. If you know how to space it out and time right, you can get the reader in the upright position at the main's true feelings on the matter come out.

Sorry for the long write, but to sum it up in one sentence I guess it's like this. (Ahem)

"A character that has no attributes or realism about him, along with a mediocre at best persona, wit, and global thinking, and only goes through without grasping the weight of his actions upon others while being mentally sound and capable, is the dictionary definition of "Monotonous, dull, uninteresting, and completely without relational potential."
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