Comic Talk and General Discussion *

What difference?
Korbennorris at 10:21PM, Aug. 2, 2020
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Can everyone distinguish what makes a well written character vs a poorly written one?
Please share your ideas with me
usedbooks at 7:25AM, Aug. 3, 2020
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A well-written character:

~Serves a purpose in the story. It might not be driving the plot. It could be for mood or filling out side-story or back-story or as a contrast to another character. Any number of things, but he needs a purpose.

~Has priorities/principles. Everyone follows their own principles. Even if those principles are not objectively “moral.” Survival of the fittest, and look out for number one are principles too. Basically everyone has something or someone they care about it, be it a person, a possession, or a cause. The character's priorities and principles guide their decisions, and they must have a very good reason to break them.

~Is balanced. Some say “faults and virtues” or “strengths and weaknesses” which is a simplistic way of thinking about it. But basically, it's important to remember that characters win some and lose some. Doing either of these all the time is boring. Unbeatable characters are boring. Constant loser characters are boring. Everyone should be good at some things and bad at others.

~Is unique in the story. No two characters should have the same purpose and/or the same driving principles. It's tedious and boring. You can, however, remove a character from the story and replace the void with a new character (who should be different even if filling the same niche).

~Is consistent. Maintain continuity. If anything changes, it needs to be with a logical progression/reason. (A character can overcome a fear, for example, or may change his “plot function” from comic relief to villain or from henchman to love interest.) A character can't suddenly lack skills he had or vice versa without some force making it so.

~~~

A poorly written character lacks one of these things. Usually because they are inconsistent or unbalanced. Or are “good” or “evil” without having some driving force behind their decisions/actions.
Ironscarf at 10:03AM, Aug. 3, 2020
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Great response usedbooks.

I would add to that, any character who is clearly there as a mouthpiece for the author's own socio-political beliefs, or whatever grudge they have against the world. Also completely absurd, nuance free characters created solely to vent the author's dislikes, such as ridiculous Social Justice Warrior types you might find in the work of a comicsgater.
 
Avart at 10:16AM, Aug. 3, 2020
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Excellent response @usedbooks and totally agree with @Ironscarf.
usedbooks at 10:44AM, Aug. 3, 2020
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@Ironscarf: Completely agree. It is painfully obvious when a character is an author-insert or an agenda-puppet.

I'd also like to add to the “bad character” writing mistakes with – Don't define a character by demographics. By that I mean, “the Chinese guy” is not a meaningful character description. Age, gender, race, nationality, etc. definitely impact a character's cultural and life experience, but demographics alone are not character traits. You should also avoid the opposite mistake of ignoring all influences of demographics on a character.
ozoneocean at 7:57PM, Aug. 5, 2020
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UB's comment about balance is important.
New knowledge and skills should for your characters should be visibly earned in order to make them meaningful. Or else explain why they aren't


Rei in the new Starwars films is a classic victim of bad writing:
She gets amazing powers and abilities without any obvious pathway to them. No struggle, no process. What this means is that there are no stakes for her and conflict becomes less meaningful because we know she will be easily able to overcome any obstacle, no matter what it is with a magical ability she acquires just for that purpose… So unlike normal characters there's no pay off for the audience.
If she needs to fight like Bruce Lee of the Bride from Kill Bill to kill a room full of trained elite warriors she can, if she needs super mind powers to lift rocks she gets them, If she needs to control people with her mind or even to find a specific person in the massive vastness of all space she can do it without sacrifice or penalty, time to learn or even acknowledgement by other characters or herself that it's unusual or special: it's just normal that the character can do all this, which makes it meaningless.


When you write a protagonist this way you make them plastic and cartoonish, it takes away from their achievements.
Contrast this with Goku from Dragon Ball Z- His stories are repetitive, Face a challenge, lose, train up to get stronger, eventually win- but his achievements are meaningful and the stories have stakes that matter because we saw what it cost him to get there, we're interested to see HOW he'll use the skills that we saw him learn.
 

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