How to write interesting characters for your fiction writing

It’s been over 30 years that the Hindi Film titled “Mr. India” was released in India in 1987 and till date we remember the character Mogambo and his famous dialogue “Mogambo Khush hua”. Even today, it is used in many colloquial contexts and situations to express achievement or satisfaction. That’s the power of creative writing. Mogambo is an example of brilliant and long-lasting characterization. Writer duo Salim-Javed did the magic.

Apart from Mogambo, over the years we’ve had very interesting characters on both celluloid and on paper. For any fiction writing be it cinema, storybook or a novel, apart from the story, the central theme; the next thing that entices a reader are the characters. And well-crafted characters also become a very convenient tool at the hands of the writer to convey their thoughts to the readers.

Stories told through characters tend to stay with us longer vis-à-vis stories told through merely circumstances and situations. Many a times, it is the very definition of the character that helps a writer navigate through the story. This particularly applies to long drawn series where sometimes the story becomes so elongated that it hits a roadblock and that time, often, it is the very definition of either one or protagonists or the central characters that acts as the guidance system for the writer, example – American TV Show titled “Person of Interest”.

So, naturally, the next pertinent question is, what is the cue to creating interesting memorable characters for your story?

Apart from thinking about the story and its presentation and setting up the screenplay (or the décor of a novel), creating characters can be a very challenging step, or let me correct myself, creating memorable, lasting and interesting characters can be a very challenging step. One might argue that the 12 character archetypes laid down by Jung i.e.

  1. Creator – If it can be imagined, it can be created
  2. Caregiver – Love your neighbor as yourself
  3. Ruler – Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing
  4. Jester – If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution
  5. Regular Gal/Guy – All men and women are created equal
  6. Lover – I only have eyes for you
  7. Hero – Where there’s a will, there’s a way
  8. Outlaw – Rules are meant to be broken
  9. Magician – It can happen!
  10. Innocent – Free to be you and me
  11. Explorer – Don’t fence me in
  12. Sage – The truth will set you free

These archetypes can act as a good guidance system for a novice writer, but these only say what needs to be achieved and not how.

To cater to the how part, it needs to be remembered, that every human being is capable of great imagination and harbors some of the exquisite fantasies. All, the writer needs to do is delve deep inside and look for those unexpressed, unsatisfied, longing characteristics, garnished with imagination and saddled with some practical real-life constraints to create memorable and interesting characters.

One of the foremost requirements is to read extensively, both fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction, reality based books like memoirs, biographies travelogues, etc. also serve as a great source of some juicy real life references.

It is often said that “truth is stranger than fiction” and rightly so. Real life stories offer much more drama, thrill and an interesting mix of the above character archetypes which can help the writer create some of the most wonderful characters ever created. It also needs to be remembered that the above character archetypes are also nothing but a very careful and long term observation of human psychology.

Over a period of time the character archetypes have evolved, even though these 12 primitive archetypes continue to hold the pivotal position in character design. However, slowly, as there is more and more acceptance for art forms like literature, cinema, storytelling, grey characters (neither pure hero, nor pure villain) have increasingly come to gain prominence, as they closely resemble their real-life conceptual doppelgangers.

Lastly, I would like to conclude by saying, regardless of what theory you follow, your characters should be relatable, even if they are totally imaginary and draw no reference from any real person.

Virag Dhulia

About the writer:

Virag Dhulia is a registered screenwriter, novelist and short film maker. His novel titled “Chess without a Queen” is available on various online platforms. Short films written and directed by him are available on the YouTube channel – “Chai Pakoda”. Virag also writes movie reviews occasionally on his website – www.viragd.com

Reference: https://writerswrite.co.za/the-12-common-archetypes/

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