It's here, my friends-- JuNoWriMo! Pick a writing goal, any writing goal, and join the party! I may not be as active in the blogging world this month as I try to bang out my personal goal of 2,000 words a day, but I'll still be around.
Let's talk about something to get the JuNo writing gears flowing. Characterization is a big focus for writers, as it should be. We often talk about how to make them likeable, and relatable, and complex, but today I want to talk about making them fascinating.
You see, my favorite characters were the ones that were larger than life. They have huge imaginations like Anne Shirley, or brilliant, tortured minds like Ender Wiggin. Those characters stick with me because they stand out in a crowd. One way I learned to do this is quite simple: give your characters contradictory traits.
In Brandon Sanderson's writing class of pure awesome, we did an exercise with characters. We started by picking a gender and age of a character who might be walking down the street in our story. Then he had us yell out a profession they might have-- and picked the most contradictory one. For example, we had an 80-year-old woman who was an assassin. Then we picked another character trait that was opposite the profession. Our 80-year-old assassin was a champion knitter.
See how fascinating that character is? We don't even have a story for her to be in yet, but we already want her to be in a story because we want to know what she'll do. She stands out in the crowd.
If you're doing YA, you can still do this with characters who don't have a profession. Pick a hobby instead, and then pick traits that contradict your expectations. Here are a few examples from my JuNoWriMo project, The Unhappening of Genesis Lee:
Estelle, the French ballet teacher who is Muslim. (And yes, that actually CAN work with her religion.)
Kai, the bouncy-ball-collecting nerd who is sometimes frightening in his intense desires to save the world.
Kai's father, the minister who became a bar tender to reach more people.
Gena, the pacifist ballet-dancing protagonist, who wants to be an astronomer and ends up fighting the system to save the world.
See how fun it is to create contradictory characters? They're a lot of fun to write, too.
So, my friends, do you like to write contradictory characters? Who are some of your favorite contradictory characters in books or movies? What other strategies do you use to make your characters larger than life?