There is one thing that unites us all here in the Starbase 118 fleet, and as writers as a whole. That thing is the desire to tell a good story. And as we all know, one of the most important parts of any story is a compelling character. One of the best ways to improve any story is to improve the character. We’re all proud of the characters we’ve built, the relationships they have, and the things they’ve accomplished. So how do we improve on that? By asking yourself questions and challenging characters to grow. Here’s a few things to consider that can make a great character even better.
Relationships – We, as people, are defined at least to some degree by the relationships that we have around us. Even the most reclusive individuals have at least some interaction with the world around them. Our characters are no different. This is even more vital in a game where we are all writing the story together. So how we interact with one another can be a key way to grow your character.
Think about what other characters are saying and doing around you, and how other characters speak to you. How does your character feel about being given orders? How does your character feel about the different races that they’re working with? What does your character think about their Commanding Officer? Every interaction is an opportunity to explore and grow your character.
Character Flaws – From time to time, we all want to play the hero, the Superman to our literary Metropolis. And to a certain extent, our characters must be exceptional in some way, otherwise they wouldn’t have come as far as they have. But for a character to remain compelling, they must also remain believable. One of the best ways to do that is to introduce flaws to a character. Who among us doesn’t have something we would like to change about ourselves. It’s part of being human. Our characters are the same way.
So maybe you’re character is a brilliant scientist. How would he fare in a phaser fight? Maybe your character is a decorated tactical officer. But can he tell the difference between an EPS manifold and a waffle iron? Maybe your character has a fear of something, either real or imagined. No one is perfect, and no one really wants to write with someone who can do everything themselves. And even more than that, exploring a characters flaws, and even overcoming them, can be even more satisfying to write than being the one to save the day.
Challenges and Failure- Every challenge we face in our lives has an effect on us. Whether we overcome it at the time or not, we can always learn something from it. Once again, our characters are no different. When our characters don’t face challenges, they don’t grow, and they don’t learn. And a character who isn’t challenged simply isn’t very interesting to read or to write for. Challenges are the core of any good story, and without the possibility of failure, the story becomes uninteresting.
And what if your character comes up against something that they can’t overcome? One of the greatest learning experiences a character can come up against is failure. And how they deal with that failure can be a tremendous opportunity to grow your character and to have them learn something, sometimes even more so than whether or not they succeed or not. Don’t be afraid of letting your character fail from time to time, you might be surprised at what they learn from it.
Organic Growth – One of the worst things that can happen to a character is for them to stagnate. When asked why a writer abandons or retires a character, the most common answer is that there was nowhere else for the character to go, nothing else for them to do. And some of the longest lasting characters are the ones that grow from their experiences, changing themselves with each challenge that they face. It can sometimes be scary when our characters begin to change in front of our eyes, especially when they become something that we didn’t envision.
But don’t be afraid to let that happen. Great characters are the ones that are allowed to grow naturally, to become something more than we thought they could be. And exploring what our characters can become can be one of the most satisfying things you can do as a writer. So don’t hold your character back. Let them grow and evolve. You might just find them becoming something even better than you imagined.
Characters are the most important element of a story. Without them, all you have is a scene. Characters make the story. And in any good story, the characters change, learn and grow from the the experiences the go through, and that’s what makes them compelling. Our characters must be at least a little bit extraordinary, that’s what makes them worth creating in the first place. But to keep them interesting, they have to be relatable. The most popular characters are the ones that we can see a little of ourselves in, for better or for worse.
(Written by Commander Liam Frost)