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Popular Types Of Fantasy Characters

Sitting down to read or write a fantasy book feels a little like finding yourself in ‘The Wood Between Worlds’ in C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. Endless doors and avenues surround you, each one filled with its own rich cast of heroes, villains, creatures, and monsters. At least, that has always been my experience of the genre. Like Polly and Diggory in the first instalment of The Chronicles of Narnia, fantasy literature has constantly offered me a gateway to a whole new world of imaginative possibility. It can be exciting, absolutely, but it goes without saying that that endlessness can also make the process of writing your own fantasy novel quite daunting.   One of the best things to bear in mind when you do feel a little lost in your fantasy world is that a fantasy novel has, at its heart, a set of conventions. Although it is the job of the writer to ensure that their fantasy story does not become too predictable or formulaic, being able to break down and understand the tropes that make up your favourite stories can help make the process of writing your own fantasy books a lot more manageable.  In this article, I’ll be examining one of the most important fantasy literature conventions: the fantasy character. Within this, I will be exploring the ten most popular types of fantasy characters, their importance to the story, as well as some notable examples, in order to show you exactly how having a good grasp of character can strengthen your fantasy writing.  Fantasy Archetypes  Although the word ‘fantasy’ frequently conjures up ideas of complex worldbuilding and intricate magic systems, it is the stories’ characters which are, ultimately, the lifeblood of every good fantasy novel. Dealing as it does with faraway lands and high-risk stakes, fantasy characters have, in many ways, a more integral role within the story than most other literary genres; we cannot necessarily relate to the fantasy setting, so we must be able to relate to the characters that exist within them.   After all, we can only come to believe in the story if we recognise something of ourselves or those around us within its characters. Without that, the power of the central conflict is lost on us. If we don’t engage with, or even understand, the story’s characters, then we cease to care about what happens to them. As anyone who has ever stayed up crying about the fictional fate of their favourite fantasy character will tell you, a story’s power and resonance are only as strong as the reader\'s emotional attachment to its characters.   And how do we achieve that emotional connection? By ensuring that our characters are fully fleshed out, three-dimensional characters, with their own motivations, flaws and emotions. In that way, even if we cannot relate to their abilities or their otherworldliness, chances are that we can share in the motivations and emotions which drive them. By understanding the role that your characters play within the wider story, this process of developing compelling characters will become less difficult. Just as every story is different, so is every character. But characters tend to fall within certain groups/categories (each with their own tropes) that are important to consider in your own fantasy writing. Types Of Fantasy Characters Fantasy stories are rife with memorable characters of all kinds. Here is a list of ten of the most common types of fantasy characters.  1. The Hero  Understandably, the most important character in every fantasy story is its main hero. This is our main character, the one whose perspective we chiefly follow, and the figure whose primary role is to resolve the conflict that is driving the action of the story. Although fantasy heroes can look, sound, and act very differently from one another, it is helpful to think of them as the kind of engine driver of the story.   For theorists like Joseph Campbell, who outlined the narrative archetype of The Hero’s Journey, the fantasy story structure can be boiled down to these basic elements: the hero goes on an adventure, learns a lesson with newfound knowledge, and then returns home transformed. Whilst not all fantasy stories stick exclusively to this idea, this archetype is useful in illustrating how integral the hero is to the story’s structure: if we don’t root for them and their mission, then the story falls flat on its face.  Although the hero is committed to resolving the story’s conflict, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case that they choose the role that they have been given: some might relish their role as a hero in the traditional warrior sense, whilst others might find themselves an altogether more reluctant protagonist.   However, it doesn’t have to be the case that the hero acts as the story’s moral epicentre. Whilst crafting a hero who is understandable and, by extension, sympathetic, is crucial, a fantasy hero is by no means bound to a strict ethical code of conduct. In many ways, the tension and intrigue within the story come from how the hero is forced to confront a darker, more questionable side to their character.  Examples: Celaena Sardothien/Aelin Galathynius (the Throne of Glass series), Paige Mahoney (the Bone Season series), Kvothe (The Kingkiller Chronicles), Vin (the Mistborn series), and Alina Starkov (the Grisha trilogy).  2. The Villain  Wherever there is a fantasy hero, there is, of course, a fantasy villain. This is the person who, often, is causing the main story’s conflict; they are the story’s primary antagonistic force and it is their desires and ambitions that the fantasy hero needs to confront. It doesn’t always have to be on the same scale but, frequently, the fulfilment of the villain’s goals spells danger not only to the hero’s life but, potentially, to the fantasy world at large.   Although the villain’s ambitions are undoubtedly immoral, one thing to keep in mind when it comes to crafting a compelling villain is that pure evil is not, in itself, enough of an excuse. In many ways, suggesting that the villain acts the way that they do, or even desires world domination ‘just because they are evil’ risks the story’s credibility.   As mentioned above, if we are to believe in the story and its stakes, we have to understand what is motivating every character involved. Rather than suggest that your fantasy villains are programmed to be inherently bad, show that their goal is tied to a deeper, emotional want. By giving them some kind of origin story, which explains their current conduct, you add a depth and complexity which heightens our emotional investment in the story.  Examples: Davy Jones (Pirates of the Caribbean), Cersei Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire series), Eli Cardale (Vicious), The Darkling (the Grisha trilogy), The Jackal (the Red Rising trilogy).  3. The Mentor  Named in honour of the figure of the self-same name who guides the young Telemachus in Homer’s The Odyssey, the mentor is the figure who, as the title suggests, helps support our hero through the story’s trials and tribulations. More often or not, they are the figure with the most knowledge of what is going on in the wider context of the story and, as such, have the practical, hard-won wisdom needed to help the hero progress. Often this relationship of dependency and trust means that the hero and the mentor share a uniquely special relationship, one that resembles an almost parental bond.   Unfortunately, by virtue of how much the mentor knows, it is almost always necessary for the mentor and the hero to part ways. After all, where would the fun be if the conflict was resolved too quickly or easily? Unless the mentor has a desire to be difficult for the sake of it, this will often mean that the mentor has to be taken out of the main story somehow, leaving the hero free to apply the lessons they have learnt from their time with them. Although this can sometimes mean being incapacitated elsewhere, commonly this will culminate in the mentor being killed off. Ultimately, their role is to provide the hero with the tools necessary to solve the conflict, but it is not always the case that they will be there to see the resolution come about.  Examples: Brom (Eragon), Magnus Bane (the Mortal Instruments series), Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Chiron (the Percy Jackson series), and Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings).  4. The Sidekick  Although not necessarily the driving force of the story in the same way fantasy heroes or fantasy villains are, fantasy sidekicks are an essential element in creating a believable story. Much like the mentor, they offer a crucial source of support to the hero; since they are not necessarily figures with the same kind of knowledge or skills, this support is more often emotional than practical. Their relationship with the hero is integral—they are true friends, with a bond forged out of years of trust and commitment, and it is, consequently, this connection which enables the sidekick to see the good in our fantasy hero, and to offer them the self-belief they need to move forwards.   Whilst the sidekick can sometimes resent their role as the lesser shining star to our hero’s supernova, it is their relatability and, frankly, their relative ordinariness which gives them their narrative power. They are the ones we recognise as being most like ourselves: on a meta level, it is the reader who, like the sidekick, is mentally rooting for the hero and, thus, it is the sidekick who acts as our mouthpiece when they give our hero a necessary pep talk.   Examples: Grover Underwood (the Percy Jackson series), Samwell Tarly (A Song of Ice and Fire series), Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings), Rose Tyler (Doctor Who), Wayne (the Mistborn series).  5. The Love Interest  Much like fantasy villains, the love interest can be a challenging character to get right. Given the fact that their relationship with the main character is chiefly romantic, it is easy for their character to be reduced entirely to this relationship. As such, the risk with writing the love interest is that we do not see them beyond their romantic role, or give them enough of an individual character arc or set of external motivations and desires to make them well fleshed out.   If you get the love interest right, however, their presence is an integral way of humanising the story’s conflict, by reminding us of the many relationships that are being put in jeopardy by the antagonistic forces that be. As already mentioned, if we don’t believe in the emotional stakes of the story, we don’t feel the full force of the story’s resolution.  Examples: Cardan Greenbriar (the Folk of the Air trilogy), Annabeth Chase (the Percy Jackson series), Rowan Whitethorn (the Throne of Glass series), Queen Sabran (The Priory of the Orange Tree), and Rhysand (A Court of Thorns & Roses series).  6. The Alternative Hero  Just one glimpse at the size of the latest Brandon Sanderson or George R.R. Martin book will tell you one very basic thing about fantasy books; they are weighty tomes overrun with a vast tapestry of characters. Given how the main fantasy archetypes only run to a handful of those characters, it makes sense for there to be some additional backup forces to help out our key players. With the stakes being as high as they are—and let’s be honest there is nothing more intense as a potential apocalypse—it would make sense for our hero to have some extra helping hands. Cue, the alternative hero.  To help understand their role, and more particularly, how they are distinguished from the sidekick or the mentor, it is best to think of the alternative hero in the mould of Tolkien’s character Aragorn: like Gandalf and Sam, he supports and believes in Frodo and his ability to save the day, but unlike the other two he assists chiefly by concentrating on what he can do, from his end, to tackle the conflict. Essentially, he empowers the main hero by providing as clear a path forward as he can towards that longed-for resolution.   Examples: Simon Lewis (the Mortal Instruments series), Tane (The Priory of the Orange Tree), Helene (An Ember in the Ashes series), Roran (The Inheritance Cycle), and Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia).  7. The Secondary Villain  Much like our backup heroes who give ‘team good’ their additional power, our villains would be nowhere near as intimidating or threatening were it not for those secondary villains propping them up. This secondary villain fundamentally operates as our main villain’s henchman; they are not so much the brains behind the operation, as the brawn, the one who carries out the dirty work in pursuit of the villain’s ultimate goal.   What makes the secondary villain so interesting is the very fact that their involvement with the main villain is less out of a genuine, emotional commitment and more a result of circumstance or compulsion. They are not necessarily bad because they want to be, or because they believe in the merits of the villain’s plan, but rather they feel they must follow along. Sometimes, they might even register the consequences of their actions, or experience inner turmoil for the damage they have caused. As with any character, it is this tension and nuance which adds emotional complexity and interest.  Examples: Luke Castellan (the Percy Jackson series), Grace Blackthorn (The Last Hours trilogy), Niclays (The Priory of the Orange Tree), Tamlin (A Court of Thorns and Roses series), Theon Greyjoy (A Song of Ice and Fire series).  8. The Magical Aide  What is the beauty of fantasy books, after all, if not for all the many wonderful supernatural entities that you can find within them? Whether they be fauns or griffins, vampires or fae, our magical characters are what give fantasy books a special kind of excitement and interest. They function as a sign of how extraordinary- literally- our fantasy worlds are and it is their existence which differentiates fantasy novels from the standard fictional book. In other words, they make our fiction fantastical.  Given how often magic and the supernatural can be misused in fantasy, the involvement of friendly magical creatures can help demonstrate the way that the fantastical or the magical are, inherently, neutral. As it is not so much magic or the supernatural that is wrong as the people who use those forces for evil.  Examples: Mr Tumnus (The Chronicles of Narnia), Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon), Kilgarrah, the Great Dragon (Merlin), Buckbeak (the Harry Potter series), Saphira (The Inheritance Cycle).  9. The Monster  As with the balance of villain and hero, the good magical creatures must have their opposite in a fantasy story. Enter the monster. Now, unlike the villain, this antagonistic force doesn’t have to have anything recognisably human about them: in all honesty, it is the essential inhumanity of our favourite fantasy monsters which makes them so terrifying and effective. In contrast to near enough every other figure in a fantasy novel, monsters need very little motivation and drive other than a primal urge to commit mayhem and pain. They are not the driving force behind the conflict, but they are the ones who see this conflict as a beneficial opportunity. As such, they cannot be reasoned with or deterred—in the vast majority of fantasy writing, it is unlikely that they can even be redeemed.  Examples: The demons (The Shadowhunter Chronicles), Shelob (The Lord of the Rings), The Chitauri (The Avengers), the Army of the Night King (Game of Thrones), and the walking dead (The Walking Dead).  10. The Rival/Foil  The rival is a character that is easy to confuse with figures like the secondary villain, or even the alternative hero. These are the characters that act as a foil to our main character and it is their proximity, or even their similarity to our main character, which gives them their enigmatic power.   Think of the term ‘rival’ less as an indication of how antagonistic they are in the wider context of the story, and more about the ways in which they operate as a balancing force to your central hero. More often than not, these characters have personalities which clash, or which cause them to resent each other, but, as it becomes apparent as the story goes on, there is more that unites these characters than divides them. Whether it is the fact that they share a similar backstory, a similar set of skills or even the same love interest, the rival reads like a character that, in a different story, might well have been our central character. And it is their presence in the story which forces the main character to prove their heroism and individuality: if there is a potentially more plausible hero out there, then our main hero has to justify why it is their story, and not the foil’s.  Examples: Neville Longbottom (the Harry Potter series), Sir Lancelot (Merlin), Han Solo (Star Wars), Robb Stark (Game of Thrones), Lysandra (Throne of Glass).  Frequently Asked Questions  What Types Of Characters Are In Fantasy?  Although this list is by no means exhaustive, there are chiefly ten main character types that can be found within fantasy stories: the hero, the villain, the mentor, the sidekick, the love interest, the alternative hero, the secondary villain, the magical aide, the monster, and the rival/foil. Whilst there is scope to play around with the role that each plays within the story, each of these figures are important characters who have some kind of involvement with the wider conflict and it is partially their relationship to this central action which shapes their conduct and perspective.  What Are Three Characteristics Of Fantasy?  By definition, fantasy is a genre that typically features three things: magical or supernatural forces and entities, a plot or world-building system which concerns a central quest or a set of adventures, and a cast of complex, well-developed fantasy characters.  How Do I Make A Fantasy Character?  To create a fantasy character, focus in on the characteristics that will make them comprehensible to your reader. The easiest way to do this is to remember that characters drive the plot and that what primarily drives everyone’s actions is a goal; zero in on what every character wants at the end of the story and why. That gives your character their motivations and, depending on the nature of those goals or the methods they go about trying to achieve them, their flaws.   Creating Fantasy Characters Although the beauty of fantasy is often in how it offers us the chance to explore an exciting, new world and magic system, it is worth remembering how important character is to grounding your story. Whether it be a paranormal, urban fantasy partially set in the real world, a fantastical fairy tale, or an epic fantasy set in a completely unfamiliar one, compelling characters provide a vital bridge in your story between us, the reader, and your fantasy setting.   Given how tied up we can often be with plotting and worldbuilding, it is understandable to feel slightly stumped when it comes to generating ideas for your fantasy characters. (Here are some fantasy prompts which may help you get started.) By providing a basic overview of the main iconic character types, a list of well-known examples and their importance to the wider story, this guide aims to show you how you can use these fantasy roles as building blocks for creating your own cast of memorable characters.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Name Characters: Top Tips And Methods

Why do we find naming characters so hard? Sometimes, names will come to you immediately and that character could never be called anything else. But so often, we agonise over finding the perfect name. This guide will show you how to come up with names for characters, explain why naming characters is important, and provide examples of effective character names.  Why Is Naming Characters Important? What’s in a name?Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare Juliet (of Romeo and Juliet fame) would have you believe a name is meaningless. That is her hope. Except for her, the name is the insurmountable wall that stands between her and her one true love. So a name, evidently, has much meaning.   And naming characters is important. A name should embody your character. It should tell us so much about who they are. It is an element of your story that could propel it to stardom. Unforgettable characters should have unforgettable names.   A name should tell your readers so much - place, time, personality - even if the story you are telling is quiet, contemporary and real-world. It should also speak to the genre you are writing and ground your readers in the fictional world you have created. I will break down some of the key elements you should consider when naming characters.  Great Character Names: The Key Components From uniqueness to contextual accuracy, here are some things to consider when coming up with character names. The World We Live In When we think about novels that are showing us our own world, we want characters that we feel we know or could walk past on the street.   For novels such as One Day by David Nicholls, we must relate to the characters in order to be willing to follow them through twenty years of their lives. We all know Emma (or a version of her). Maybe not so much Dexter - but that makes sense because he is from a different ‘class’. He moves in different circles. His name is as important as hers. It shows the divide between them, but as the reader, all you care about is them managing to cross that divide.  Contemporary novels, be it literary, thriller, or romance, all have one thing in common. We know these names and we could know these characters. Sally Rooney did it with Normal People. Marianne and Connell, such beautiful Irish names of characters that could live up your street. Kiley Reid with Such a Fun Age had Emira and Alix. The novel deals with themes of race and privilege, and Alix’s name is a stroke of genius. The character changed a letter in her name to go from Alex (far too normal) to Alix (much edgier). This is a character who cares so much about her image and how she is seen that she changes her name. It\'s a genius character name, as I said. And Blythe, her husband Fox, and daughter Violet in The Push by Ashley Audrain are about as middle-class as you can get. This tells the reader so much before they have even turned the first page.  Don’t be scared to use everyday names. If that is the world, then that is the right name.  Catchy And Unique Do you want your characters to jump off the page? Naming characters in a quirky way will definitely help you get there.  Let\'s take the wonderful Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Would you have cared quite so much if Sarah Smith had been completely fine? Apologies to all Sarah Smiths of the world - it is a great, strong name and I descend from a Smith myself - but it doesn’t tickle the ears or play on the tongue quite so nicely as Eleanor Oliphant. Before even opening that first page, you conjure an image of Eleanor. She stands out. You want to know everything about her.   Charles Dickens was the king of this technique, especially with creative last names. You will never forget great character names such as Martin Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep and Ebenezer Scrooge.  The same goes for nicknames. So many characters will only ever be known by their nicknames. Scout and Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley from the same novel, Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, Piggy from Lord of the Flies. All are completely memorable characters and their nicknames help us remember them.  And let’s not forget Pippi Longstocking! Children’s literature is full of amazing, stand-out names. So, if you want your characters to stand out from the rest, go for a name that is catchy or even completely made up.  Of The Time Historical fiction calls for names that fit the period. It would be no use throwing a character named Jaiden into an 1870s Victorian cosy mystery. And some great character names have come from historical fiction.   The wonderful Fingersmith by Sarah Waters has Sue Trinder (a petty thief), Maud Lilly (a gentlewoman), and Gentleman. Anyone called Gentleman is likely to be anything but.  The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton has names of both time and place. Set in 1686 in Amsterdam, Nella Oortman marries Johannes Brandt. Both names are very much of the time.  I think this is one genre where research is key. You won’t get away with using names from the wrong period. Readers are savvy, they will pick up on it. Get it right and you’ll gain credibility.   Of The Place Place is a strange one. Of course, if your novel is set somewhere very specific such as the cold climates of Scandinavia or amid the colours and heat of Nigeria, then great character names will fit with these places. But place is also closely linked with time, so you should think about both hand in hand. And this is where you can use cultural inspirations, too.  In my current WIP, I have a character named Tara. The novel is set in Appalachia in South Carolina, just across the border from Georgia, incidentally where Gone With the Wind was set. Tara was named after the plantation in the novel and movie and she is so proud of this, she has posters from the movie hanging from her bedroom wall. But her sister, Grace, states that she is “sure Mama has never even watched the movie, let alone read the book.” Tara’s name is of the place, yet it also reveals so much about the family. They are happy to use cultural references without knowing anything about them, so appearances clearly matter to them.  There is a brilliant book called A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley. It is set amid the Civil Rights Movement in America. The character that the story centres around is Tucker Caliban - is that not a character you know will achieve something in his life? He is a black farmer that kills his cattle, burns down his farm and sets in motion a mass exodus of all the black people from the town who reject their life of servitude and head for freedom. The other character names are perfect too - The African, Mister Leland, Dymphna Willson, Bethrah, Dewey Willson III. The state is fictional but everything about these names tells us it’s the Deep South.  For me, this is one of the most important elements of naming characters. Show me where I am without telling me where I am. Anything that doesn’t belong will stick out to your readers.  Weird Names For Weird Characters Naming characters in gothic, weird or uncanny fiction can be a lot of fun. Writers need to show readers that this world is not quite the same as ours, so you can have fun coming up with great character names that fit your odd world where unlikely things happen.  One of my favourite books of all time is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The narrator is eighteen-year-old Merricat Blackwood. Merricat is an affectionate nickname. But Merricat is anything but lovely. She is malignant. The name of her sister is also clever - Constance is the faithful, dependable and unchanging sister, even knowing what she knows about Merricat. I, for one, have never forgotten the name Merricat. It is as creepy as the character herself.  The same goes for Lucy McKnight Hardy’s Water Shall Refuse Them. Her main characters are called Nif and Mally. I don’t know anybody called Nif or Mally. They are totally unique and otherworldly, just like their macabre story is otherworldly.  Dystopian fiction fits this category, too. Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins\'s The Hunger Games, for example, is a unique name for a unique world. Or in the opposite way, Winston Smith from George Orwell’s 1984. This is where the name Smith works so well. He is the ‘everyman’, yet he is living in a world filled with nuclear war, propaganda and the ‘thought police’. Quite unbelievable, yet totally (and scarily) real.  Here is where you can use your imagination - and the same goes for other genres, too - so get creative!  Roots That Go Deep If you want to stamp your novel in place and time with families that have been there for generations, the key is to come up with good last names for characters. Think about Downton Abbey, for example. The Crawley family are front and centre. They have a heritage that makes viewers care deeply about their future and the changes that occur. Jeffrey Archer achieved the same with his Clifton Chronicles. The surname has roots, giving the characters roots and an automatic history.  Or look at Titanic. Rose and Jack. DeWitt-Bukater and Dawson. Instantly, we know that Rose is from a wealthy family, she is a society girl. Jack is a poor person. They even laugh that he will need her to write her name down. The divide is clear just from their names. And there is an expectation that Rose will marry up. It is the way of things in her world. Jack challenges what has been the norm in her family and her society for generations.  This is where good last names for characters can really help you show the backstory of your characters.  How To Name A Character So, now you know just how important character names are. But how do you come up with an effective character name? Here are our tips. Research Read widely in your genre. See how other writers name their characters. Read articles and non-fiction about the time period and place your novel is set. Look at Census records for when your novel is set. Seek out the root meanings of names.  Read Baby Name Books You can Google baby names and search by year for the most popular. Or keep a stash of baby name books to hand for when you don’t want to spend forever choosing a great character name.  Online Name Generators Online name generators are a great resource, and there are tons of them available on the internet. Here are a couple to get you going:  Behind the name.Name generator. Draw From Real Life You could combine names of people that you have come across throughout your life. Did you have a sentimental teddy or toy as a child? That could make a great character name. Pay homage to famous figures without using their full name.  Teachers or other personalities from your school days always have an emotional draw (good or bad) for people. Who stands out for you? Who do you remember well?  What To Avoid When Naming Characters I wouldn’t recommend using names of people you know personally, especially family. This might come back to bite you. Using full names of famous people can be risky because your readers will always conjure an image of them in their mind. Borrowing names from other books - try to be original.  Creating Character Names While you should think carefully about your character names, don’t spend too long agonising over them. Think about what you want a character’s name to say about them, whether it be personality, image, where they live, the roots they have, or the period in which they live. If the story allows it, be wild. If the story calls for it, be ordinary. But also know that, although a name isn’t just a name, as shown above, it also is just a name. If you want more advice on writing character names, check out our Jericho Writers YouTube video on the same topic.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Introducing Characters To Your Story: Our Top Tips

The heart of storytelling is in the characters. You’ve done the work thinking them up and giving them interesting and compelling inner lives. The next thing to do is to get these characters from your head, into the heads of your readers. In fiction, as in real life, first impressions are important, so the way you introduce characters can make a difference in making sure your reader carries on past chapter one. In this article, I\'ll go through how to introduce characters in a story, provide examples of strong character introductions, and give you my best tips for introducing characters effectively. Character Introduction Examples And Tips The purpose of a character introduction is to get the reader interested in the character and invested enough that they will want to carry on reading. If you can introduce a character in a vivid and memorable way, they will appear in the reader’s mind fully formed and ready to go. So, how exactly do you achieve that?  Give Your Characters One Or Two Memorable Features What is the first thing you want people to notice about the character? Is it the way they’re wearing a kaftan and wellington boots? Is it the shrewdness of their expression? Whatever it is, describe it and let your readers build up their own picture of the character from there. It can be tempting to describe your character’s physical appearance in detail. Resist the urge!   All you have to do is provide the reader with some touch points and they will fill in the gaps (often with details that you wouldn’t even have thought about). If there is something unusual about the character’s physical appearance - or something that will become important later, do mention that.  Below is one of my favourite character descriptions. We can picture the whole of Grandma, just from that description. It’s also worth noting that the choice of words is completely in keeping with the sort of thing a boy George’s age would say. \"George couldn’t help disliking Grandma. She was a selfish grumpy old woman. She had pale brown teeth and a small puckered up mouth like a dog’s bottom.\"George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl  Describe Your Characters By The Clothes They Wear Clothes can tell you a lot about a person. At the very least, they can give you an impression of the type of person they are. Look at the description below. By the end of the paragraph, we have a clear mental image of the type of person Shoba is, even if we have no description of her actual features.  \"\'It’s good of them to warn us,\' Shoba conceded after reading the notice aloud, more for her own benefit than Shukumar’s. She let the strap of her satchel, plump with files, slip from her shoulders and left it in the hallway as she walked into the kitchen. She wore a navy blue poplin raincoat over gray sweatpants and white sneakers, looking, at thirty three, like the type of woman she’d once claimed she would never resemble.\"The Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri  Introduce Your Characters By Their Voice And Demeanour If you’re writing in first person or in ‘deep third’ (where you’re deep into the thoughts of your third person narrator) it can be hard to describe the character. People don’t often go around thinking about the colour of their eyes or the bounce of their curls. However, you can tell the reader what kind of person they are by the way they describe their surroundings. Show rather than tell.   A happy person and a sad person would look at the same scene and focus on different things. An acerbic character would describe things differently to a mild and gentle one.  You’re trying to give the reader an idea of the character rather than a picture perfect description. So introducing characters in a story by highlighting their characteristics can be really effective. In the extract below, although we have no idea what’s going on (and neither does Tom, really), we get a good idea of Tom’s state of mind. Also, that he’s done something that might lead to his arrest. It takes a while for the reader to understand what\'s going on with Tom Ripley, but even on the first page, we get the idea that there’s something dangerous and a little reckless about him.  \"Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way. Tom walked faster. There was no doubt the man was after him. Tom had noticed him five minutes ago, eyeing him carefully from a table, as if he weren’t quite sure, but almost. He had looked sure enough for Tom to down his drink in a hurry, pay and get out. At the corner, Tom leaned forward and trotted across fifth avenue. There was Roaul’s. Should he take a chance and go in for another drink? Tempt fate and all that? Or should he beat it over to Park Avenue and try losing him in a few dark doorways? He went into Raoul\'s.\"The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith  Introduce Characters Through Action This is my favourite way to describe people - by the things they do. This is very common in film scripts. Probably the best example of this is Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope. He walks in, and surveys the dead with an attitude of annoyance. He then goes on to choke someone. By the time he speaks, we already know that he’s the villain and that he’s very powerful.  Introduce Characters Through Dialogue If your character has a distinctive voice, you can give the reader an idea of who they are just by having them speak. In the example below, the narrator (and the reader) gets an image of Holly Golightly before he even sees her. Notice also, how Capote introduces movement into the scene by the sound of her voice changing as she comes up the stairs.  \"The voice that came back, welling up from the bottom of the stairs, was silly-young and self-amused. \'Oh, darling, I am sorry. I lost the goddamn key.\'\"Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote  And then a few sentences later:   \"‘Oh, don’t be angry,  you dear little man: I won’t do it again. And if you promise not to be angry…’ - her voice was coming nearer, she was climbing the stairs - ‘I might let you take those pictures we mentioned.’\" Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote  Introduce Them Through Another Character You can use other character’s impressions to introduce your character. Make their reputation precede them. For example, before we meet Sherlock Holmes for the first time, we hear Stamford describe him and his habits to Dr Watson.  \"Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine glass. \'You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,\' he said. \'Perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.\'‘Why, what is there against him?’ ‘Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas - an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know, he is a decent fellow enough.\'\"A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle  Stamford goes on to describe various aspects of Sherlock Holmes, so that when we finally meet the man, we feel we already know him.   Introducing First Person Characters Introducing characters written in first person deserves a separate section because it’s hard to describe them without falling into the ‘I looked in the mirror’ cliche. Here are a few methods you could use, apart from the ones described above.   Let them introduce themselves directly to the reader. This may seem a little old fashioned now but it is effective. Have the narrator introduce themselves to another character. The risk of \'info dumping’ is high with this one. Try and make sure that you have them say just enough to convey the information that is essential. Introduce the character alongside another, and describe them by contrasting them. This is a good way to bring their physical descriptions in. For example: ‘unlike my diminutive and dainty sister, I was tall and had wide shoulders. No one had ever called me dainty’; that sort of thing.  Introducing Characters: General Tips As a general rule, the more detail you give about a character, the more important the reader expects them to be. Your main character needs a name, an age and some description (however vague). From there on, the amount of detail you give should be proportional to the character’s importance to the story. If you’re introducing a character who is going to reappear later, you can give them a name. For someone who appears once and has no real effect on the story - like a cashier who serves the character - just call them ‘the cashier’ and move on. There’s no need to linger and give details.   Introduce your protagonist early. This not only gets the story going right from the start, but it also tells your reader who they’re supposed to be rooting for. Other major characters can come in later, but your main character should show up in chapter one. If you’re writing romance, you need both the hero and heroine to show up within the first two chapters of the story.  When you’re in the earliest parts of the story, your reader is still new to the world, so make things easy for them. Make it clear who is speaking, either by having people call them by name or by using a simple ‘John said’.   Giving a little bit of backstory for your character is fine, but avoid trying to tell them everything right at the start. This is known as ‘info dumping’. You will know a lot about your characters. Think of all that knowledge as an iceberg.  You only need to tell the reader the bits that are relevant and visible. If you can hint at the stuff that’s submerged, then that’s great. If it’s hard to do that, then exercise restraint. You can always trickle the information in later on the story, adding layers to your character. The introduction is only the first glimpse of your character. The reader has a whole book in which to get to know them better; and if you’ve introduced your characters in a compelling way, the reader will stay the course.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write The Perfect Villain

Literary villains are characters that readers love to hate. In fact, in many cases, well-written villains are so compelling that they can even overshadow the hero or heroine of the story, with personality types that are much more memorable than the detective or superhero that hunts them down and eventually brings them to justice.   Have a think about the following well-known villains: Darth Vader, Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter and Count Dracula.   What is it that makes all these characters stand out?   What is that makes readers almost root for their victory?  Well in this article I’m going to discuss the key character traits of a villain, explore a handful of literary villains that have gone down in history and finally, give you some tips to bring your villain to life on the page.  What Makes A Good Villain?  The most important thing to note is that villains should not be created any differently to the other protagonists in your novel. They may have done the unthinkable. Their crimes may be highly unrelatable. But they are still multi-faceted, complex people with vulnerabilities, motivations and needs, no different to anyone else.   A reader’s enjoyment of a novel very much depends on whether they can relate to, sympathise with and even root for all the characters in the novel. This is easy to do when a character is immediately likeable, courageous or an underdog (because everybody loves an underdog!), but even a villain needs to be relatable in some way, and sometimes even likeable – whether the reader will want to admit it or not!   The key to writing a good villain is backstory, vulnerability and motivation. There is nothing worse than reading about a villain carrying out a series of heinous crimes with no explanation as to why they acted that way. Every villain will have suffered at some point in their past. Every villain will have been a victim. This is essential backstory to garnering sympathy from the reader and ultimately enhancing your story.   Another key to writing a good villain is character. Your villain is not just the crimes they commit. They will need their own set of idiosyncrasies and personality traits, completely independent of their crimes.   Let’s explore some of the characteristics of believable villains.   Characteristics Of Believable Villains  Here are five key characteristics of believable villains that you can use as a checklist while creating your own.   Backstory. As we’ve explored briefly above, every villain needs a backstory that provides an explanation for their villainous behaviour. Think about the backstory of the most well-known villains. Darth Vader. Count Dracula. Most of them started out as relatively good people. But it was something in their past, some sort of suffering that led them down a dark path.   Complexity of character. A villain who is nothing but their crimes, is not a villain your reader will care about. In creating your villain think about who they are as a person. Their likes and dislikes. Their wide range of emotions. Their body language. Their motivations. Some villains may be sarcastic and self-deprecating, with a limited sense of empathy, whereas others may possess a notable sense of humour (though a deeply twisted one).   The capacity for evil. This may not be the case for all villains. Some may carry out horrific actions because they have no choice. Others may experience regret or guilt. But some villains are created as pure evil, with the willingness to do bad things and feel nothing. Think of Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones, who is effectively a serial killer who showed no remorse for his actions.   Justification. As mentioned above, some villains are not pure evil. They may carry out evil but only do so from a perspective of personal righteousness. These villains are otherwise known as the anti-hero of their story, a sympathetic villain who garners immediate sympathy from the reader as their story is told wholly from their own point of view.  Special skill that sets them apart. This is another key trait that your villain may or may not possess. There are a few examples that immediately come to mind. Jason Bateman’s character in Ozark with his defining feature as a mathematical genius and Hannibal Lecter, who as well being a cannibal, is also a brilliant psychologist, which is largely what makes him so compelling.   There are other common characteristics that you can play with to make your villain an authentic, relatable, three-dimensional person, such as:   Sarcastic and droll.  Self-deprecating.  Charming (both in looks and personality).  Intelligent and accomplished.  Persuasive.  Narcissistic.  Psychopathic.   Best Literary Villains  Now let’s explore three well-known literary villains and find out exactly what it is that makes them memorable.   The Grand High Witch In The Witches By Roald Dahl  Described in the novel as “the most evil woman in creation”, she is on a mission to torture and murder as many children as she can. But what makes her stand out isn’t so much her crimes but the way she is depicted as not only terrifying, but charming, glamorous and highly intelligent.   Tom Ripley In The Talented Mr Ripley By Patricia Highsmith  Tom is a highly relatable character than you cannot help but root for. Okay, less so when he murders his beloved and assumes his identity, but you can feel the pain of his broken heart when he is pushed away by the man he so admires and loves.   Humbert Humbert In Lolita By Vladimir Nabokov  This psychopathic paedophile is a very well-crafted character. Despite kidnapping a young girl whose mother he murdered, and driving her around while coaxing her into sexual acts, you cannot help but become charmed by him and his persuasiveness. With the fancy prose and his enigmatic speeches, you almost forget that he is a villain in its most horrific form.   How To Write A Villain Now that we’ve delved into the characteristics of villains and explored some well-known examples, here are some top tips to help you go about developing your own.   Spend some time crafting a complete and foolproof backstory for your villain. Think about where they were brought up, any influences or role models they might have had, and what happened to them to lead them down this dark path.   Create the elements of their personality from scratch, completely independent from their crimes. Who are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What about their mannerisms, quirks and body language? How might a stranger view them if they saw them walking down the street?   Find an area of sympathy, or something that makes them relatable. Why might a reader warm to or root for them, in spite of their crimes?   Put yourself in their position. If you had experienced their childhood, their past, if you had their vulnerabilities, their values and their character, would it make you capable of their crimes? Have you created a believable villain?  And finally, unless you are writing a romcom or satire, ensure that you steer away from inadvertently creating a comical villain. There is a different between a witty, humorous villain and one whose actions and mannerisms are akin to a pantomime ‘baddie’. Avoid cliches in their dialogue and be careful when describing their actions and expressions.   Writing Believable Villains As we’ve discovered, the best villains are those that the readers can connect with, because they understand why a character has gone down the path they have and where they might go next. If a character has no vulnerabilities or motivations, your story will fall flat because the only conflict is external and therefore can be solved by anyone. You want your reader to finish the book and feel disappointed when the villain is brought to justice!   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How Character Flaws Impact Your Story

If you want people to like your character, then they need to be a little unlikeable.   I know, I know, that sounds like a contradiction. But a lot of people think that creating a character means making the perfect person for readers to fall in love with. Except nobody falls in love with perfect. A person who has no flaws, no rough edges or bad habits, isn’t only unrealistic but, let’s face it, they’re boring.   And if there’s one thing you don’t want your readers to be, then it’s bored.  Readers are unlikely to eagerly follow the journey of someone who already has everything all sorted, because the point of a story is that they want to be there when your character figures things out. A reader will want to watch your character grow and change with their mistakes.  So how do you create someone who is flawed, but likeable? A character who has a lot of bad traits, and yet has readers caring about what happens to them?  This guide is here to help! We’re going to delve in to why a lack of character flaws will flaw your story, how to turn two-dimensional characters into well-rounded people that readers will root for, and what the difference is between flawed and villainous.  Why It’s Important To Add Depth To Your Characters   Characters are the core component of any story. People are interested by a plot, but they stick around for the characters.  Stories essentially have two sides: the conflict of the plot and the internal conflict of the character(s). And both are equally important. In fact, scratch that, the character side is probably more important. \'But my book is an action story about deadly space aliens,\' I hear you say. Okay, but . . . who are these deadly space aliens? Or the people they’re at war with? What do they want and why? What is stopping them from achieving it? Enter: character flaws!  Character flaws are the thing that prevents the plot from being resolved instantly, hindering a person’s ability to defeat their bad guy (or whatever the central conflict is) outside of the forces they can’t control. If you have a character who knows what to do in any given situation and always makes the right decision, your story is going to be over pretty quickly. You want to keep the reader guessing.   A flaw is a way to add depth, not only to your characters but to your plot. These flaws create external and internal conflicts, sending characters down different pathways and affecting their relationships with each other (and themselves). Really, plot and flawed characters work hand in hand.  When I start a book, I always start with the people I want in it. Sure, I have a rough idea of the storyline I want, or the world I’m thinking of creating, but the first thing I ask myself is: who would live in this world? What would happen to them in it? And, most importantly, why do they do the things they do? Their flaws, their past and present conflicts, help build this profile and impact how they’re going to journey through the worlds we create.  A character simply cannot be stagnant; they must go through a journey. I don’t mean a physical one, but an emotional one. Your characters have to end up somewhere different to where they started so readers feel a sense of accomplishment. Overcoming their flaws is the way to do this.  What Constitues A Character Flaw? So what is a character flaw?  Simply put, a character flaw is some kind of fault. A fear, a weakness, maybe even a bias. It’s a thing that affects the character and how they interact with the world around them.  A lot of the times flaws can be simple habits or quirks, sometimes they can even be physical (like scars). They can also be based on morals (or lack of!), and rigid personality traits that end up inhibiting them as they progress through the story and serve as hurdles on their way to happiness.  We’re going to look at examples of the three main kinds of character flaw a little further down, but a great way to think of what constitutes a flaw is to examine real life personalities. Think about the people you’ve interreacted with — whether it’s friends, family, or even a mortal enemy or two! — and what quirks and traits make them who they are.   Are they rigidly stubborn? Do they have a nervous tic? What was the first thing you noticed that set them aside from everyone else? The best way to create a realistic character with flaws that shape who they are, is to become something of a Frankenstein and take pieces from a bunch of people to create someone new!  And, as we’ve discussed above, at least one of these flaws should impact the plot, fuelling a conflict within the character and between them and others. Perhaps your character’s flaw might be that they have a desire for vengeance that overrides everything else, including allowing them to be truly open with close friends.   Whatever it is, you should make sure your reader knows why a flaw exists, so they can build sympathy with your character and understand their actions and what leads them to behave the way they do. This way they will be a lot more forgiving of any mistakes your character makes.  Though remember, characters don’t have to be likeable to be relatable. Or relatable to be likeable. A lot of us love a good villain, even if we can’t relate to their murderous tendencies (at least . . . I hope not!). Your readers can love to hate someone because at least they understand them and they feel authentic (in a sense. None of us can know what an authentic alien is if you’re writing sci-fi, but writers are nothing if not good at imagining!).   And if your character is a villain, don’t be afraid to lean into that. We just need to know why. They can’t want to take over the world just because they feel like it. They need purpose, logic, and a fatal flaw (more on that below!) to have driven them to that point. Remember, nobody is the villain of their own story. So why is your character the villain of someone else’s?   When crafting a character I always ask myself two questions: what is the flaw they see in themselves? And what is the flaw that other people see in them? These are two very different things, both of which impact who a character has become and where they will go next.  Character Flaws: Examples Now broadly speaking, there are three different types of character flaw. These are: minor flaws, major flaws and tragic flaws.  Minor Character Flaws A minor flaw is usually pretty insignificant. It helps differentiate your character somewhat from other people within your story, but doesn’t tend to impact the actual plot.   Good examples of minor character flaws are:   Habits like knuckle-cracking or biting their nails Forgetfulness or lateness  Shallowness or vanity   They can also be quirks of a character, like overusing a specific phrase. And sometimes a minor flaw can be physical (maybe your character has an old scar from childhood, or a limp).  Major Character Flaws Now a major flaw is different, because that’s what is going to cause a problem for your character at some point in the story. A lot of the time major flaws are moral failings, and they’re going to be the obstacle in your character’s growth. This is the thing they must overcome in some way to achieve their goals. It’ll also likely to be the source of tension between them and the other characters in the story.  Good examples of major character flaws are:  Addictions Phobias A fear of being vulnerable or letting their guard down   Major flaws are internal conflicts within your character that cause ripple effects as the story goes onward. Unlike minor flaws, which tend to stick with your character and be an essential part of who they are, major flaws are hurdles for your character to overcome in order to better themselves. For side-characters they are also the cause of shifting allegiances.  Tragic Character Flaws And lastly we have the tragic flaw/fatal flaw. This is the thing that will lead to the demise of your character if not resolved. Think of it like their Achilles heel. Tragic flaws are the most important parts of a character’s story and the very thing they need in order for their arc to be completed. And if you’re writing a tragic hero, this is going to be the crux of their story.  Good examples of tragic/fatal character flaws are:  A need for vengeance that causes them to disregard anything else, even their own safety or the safety of those they love Misplaced loyalty to someone unredeemable Self-sacrificing nobility that makes them risk their lives unnecessarily  Pride/ego so great that it leads to grave mistakes in judgement    Tragic flaws are pivotal to the climax of a story. In villains, these flaws will lead to their eventual demise. In heroes (and anti-heroes!), it can do the same; leading to their deaths when they fail to overcome them, or when they overcome them too late to save themselves but are able to save another character instead (thereby giving them redemption). Tragic flaws don’t necessarily always have to be fatal, but they will always lead to some kind of serious downfall and great misfortune.   Writing Flawed Characters The best characters are those the readers can connect with, because they understand why a character has gone down the path they have and where they might go next. If a character has no flaws and is all-too-perfect, your story will fall flat because the only conflict is external and therefore can be solved by anyone. You want your readers to know why your character is the right person for this story to centre around and what makes them so interesting. Character flaws keep a story going, ensure continuing momentum, and set your character’s journey apart from anyone else’s!   And if you’re ever feeling stuck, remember that Jericho Writers is here to help with a range of writing courses and mentoring, as well as editorial services for all types of work! As the world’s leading online writers club, we work with top agents, editors and authors to give you everything you need to smash your writing goals. Join Jericho Writers now to get access to weekly online events, masterclasses and so much more.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Create Imaginary Creatures For Your Fantasy Novel

Your character is sprinting down a dark tunnel, footsteps crashing against the hard stone and echoing all around. The tunnel opens wide, a ledge rapidly approaches – this is the lair! Your character slides to a stop and sees… what? Something awe-inspiring? Something terrifying? Perhaps both?  All readers, and indeed writers, love nothing more than seeing fresh and exciting fantasy beasts and mythical beings in their books. The presence of unique, creative monsters and imaginary races emboldens any fantasy, sci-fi, gothic or horror story. Their presence brings a book’s setting to life, inspiring questions of how they came to be, and how the inhabitants of that world interact with them - or not.   Imaginary literary creatures also massively inform a story’s plot and even enhance character, whilst being wonderful vehicles for symbolism and allegory.  So, as a writer, how do you get your monster right?   What Are Fantasy Creatures? Fantasy creatures are nothing new. Monsters made from our imagination have been around as long as the humans who created them.  When it comes to inspiration, the greatest place to start is in the past and studying the legends that have inspired many an iconic story and influenced human civilisations. Every country in the world has its own myths and legends, and in turn, its own fantastical beasts.  Take the Twelve Labours of Heracles from Ancient Greece. They are rife with legendary beasts based on very real creatures from our world, such as the Nemean Lion. What makes the Nemean Lion mythical is the small but important detail that its golden fur is impenetrable, so it could not be killed by conventional means. This elevates the labour of the hero by heightening the stakes and presenting a unique challenge for them to overcome.  Another of the monsters, the Hydra, has inspired many terrifying literary monsters. A highly venomous snake-like beast with many heads, it seems imposing enough upon first glance, but when we realise that its heads grow back after being cut off – then it becomes a true terror (anyone spot the similarities between the Hydra and Hagrid’s three-headed dog, Fluffy, in the Harry Potter series?).  Moving away from Greece, we find all sorts of mythical creatures in the infamous Chinese tale Journey to the West. Not only are there dragons, demon kings and ogres, but also a jade rabbit spirit, great white turtle and, above all, the protagonist is the cheeky, troublemaking Monkey King, Sun Wukong.  Norse mythology has frost giants, a giant wolf, undead Draugar, dwarves, elves and even the Mare – a monster that would give people bad dreams by sitting on them in their sleep (I wonder which Norseman’s sleep paralysis conjured that up!).   In Norse myth especially, the design of the creatures was directly used to inform their society and beliefs. Back then townsfolk would wear metal rings around their arms depicting Jormungandr, the great snake that represented the circle of life by biting its own tail. They would swear oaths to their gods, believing they would be protected. In those times, the creatures they created weren’t myths, but real monsters and deities that delivered cautionary tales.  There are mythical creatures in every culture – and all of them are exceptional in their own way. They are often reminiscent of terrifying or intriguing creatures in our real-world or derived from their mythical precursors. And almost all of these fantastical creatures have wound their way into unforgettable fantasy settings, both in our much-loved classics and modern storytelling.  But do these monsters make a difference? In short, yes.  Benefits Of Using Unique Fantasy Creatures In Your Novel As we excitedly plunge into the vibrant ocean of fantasy creatures, we should take a step back and try to understand what they bring to our stories.  Often a character’s interaction with a fantasy creature will form part of the plot. If we take the earlier example of the Hydra and Nemean Lion, Heracles daubs his arrows in the Hydra’s venomous blood and wears the impenetrable hide of the lion as a cloak. As you can imagine, both concepts have been used in numerous fantasy stories since.  A great deal of exploration of the human soul can be done with monster stories too. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we get an insight into love, abandonment and discrimination through the lens of a horrifying creature. The monster, as it’s known in the tale, receives its own chapters demonstrating how it thinks and feels. Shelley’s work was a remarkable forerunner for stories using fantasy creatures as a lens of symbolism and theme, such as Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling.  The existence of a unique fantasy creature, in turn, makes your story unique too. This extends to mythical races such as elves and orcs. Take Lord of the Rings as an example. Would Tolkien’s famous world have had half the cultural impact were it only filled with squabbling human races?  Even in a more grounded fantasy setting, such as George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (the series that conjured A Game of Thrones) - if we were to remove Targaryen Dragons and White Walkers, would it be the same?  So many mythical creatures have become iconic to the point where their world-building has become canon. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, krakens, and probably a dozen more you’re cursing me for not mentioning.  The truth of the matter is that what makes a fantasy tale stand above the crowd is the strength of its creatures, and how they are used. An unforgettable fantasy world is built of many bricks, but it is the consistency and uniqueness of its creatures that glues those bricks together.  So how do we bring originality to our own creatures?   How To Create Unique Fantasy Creatures As all writers know, creating something truly unique is a near-impossible task. But don’t be disheartened, as it doesn’t take much to mould something that already exists into something new and gruesome.   Let’s take a look at six ways of doing that:  1. Combine More Than One Magical Element  Let us take the story of the Nemean Lion mentioned earlier. The story uses a very real creature (a lion) but adds the small tweak of its golden fur being impenetrable.   We can do the same thing. What if we take a boar, but say its tusks can conjure lightning? If we want whimsy, what if a character has to catch a quite ordinary-looking mouse, but this mouse weighs as much as an elephant?  In a similar vein, many mythical creatures are mashups of two real creatures. The Chimera was depicted as a fire-breathing lion, with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a venomous snake as its tail. What if we gave the horn of a rhino to a horse? What if we gave sharks wings? You get the picture… 2. Make Them Human  The term ‘uncanny valley’ (the relationship between the human-like appearance of a robotic object and the emotional response it evokes) is a wonderful tool to use when trying to understand what makes something scary. Taking something into that uncanny valley – that halfway point between familiar and unnatural – plays on some of the deepest shared human fears.  When a werewolf is turned by a full moon, we can’t help but remember who they were as a human. Vampires are so tantalising but unnerving because they can present themselves as humans, but they kill in such a gruesome way. Creatures like Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT tap into that uncanny valley all the time. As would a human who crawls like a spider, or a woman who glides instead of walks, or a child with buttons for eyes (thank you, Neil Gaiman). 3. Give Your Monsters Motivation  Or better yet, an origin story.  Fantasy creatures and monsters are often the villains of a novel, so why not give them depth and complexity? It could be argued supervillains like The Joker, from Batman, or Thanos, from The Avengers, are monsters in their own rights.   Both have penetrated the modern zeitgeist thanks to their detailed backstory and purposeful (or anarchic) motivations. It’s often not enough to make your scary creature bad, if you give them a good enough reason it heightens the stakes and creates discomfort in your readers as they start to question their own morals (perhaps even the monster within themselves).  4. Give Them A Home Where does your monster live? In its own world? In ours? Or maybe both? Ask yourself what’s scarier, or a bigger challenge, for your characters.  Trans-dimensional monsters are cropping up more and more often in books, TV and film, providing great inspiration for writers. In the Netflix show, Stranger Things, the Demogorgon monster moves between a rural 80s US town and a mouldy mirrored world known as the ‘Upside Down’.  Having contrasting locations (much like foil characters) not only brings style to the story, but also provides parameters and boundaries for your creature. How the creature interacts with our own world will influence the plot, how it behaves, and ultimately how the hero will defeat it.  5. Ask Yourself If The Creature Is Even Needed (Or If You’re Just Having Fun) Is your creature simply another barrier in your hero’s quest? Are they an integral part of that world? Are they crucial to the plot? Perhaps they’re only there to deliver a message to your reader (or even character).  Whatever their purpose, how and why you have created this fantastical being will change the attributes you give it and how/where it’s featured in your story. We all love a great monster, but a monster for a monster’s sake doesn’t make for a great story. In fact, it may do the opposite, and detract your reader so much from the main plot they stop caring about your hero altogether. 6. Use Nature To Inspire You As the old adage goes, ‘fact can be scarier than fiction’. You don’t have to look far in the world of animals, plants and unusual habitats, to find inspiration. Mermaids have strong ties to manatees, vampires were inspired by bats, and even something as simple as Jaws, a shark that looks like a shark and acts like a shark but is just really big and really mean, was enough to make an entire generation scared of the water.   Fascinating creatures exist all over our natural world, especially in the depths of the ocean or in uninhabitable rainforests. So get searching and add some of nature’s wonders to your own monsters.  Our Monster Checklist Once you have come up with your fantastical concept, take a look at our checklist to ensure your creature is consistent within your world and story.  Here are some things to consider:  What are its strengths and weaknesses? Vital in any potential confrontation with a creature, we must know what makes it a threat, what makes it special and what might bring it low. Your hero has to overcome it after all.  What does it look like? Consider how many limbs it has, its facial structure, if it has skin or fur, its colouring and textures. A big one for me is eyes – missing eyes can be uncanny, beady eyes feels insectoid, large eyes feels cute (perhaps as a trap). How large is the creature?  A seemingly inane question, but an important one. If the world is filled with enormous titans, what is their food source? If there isn’t one, are they going extinct? Or, if a creature is tiny, how does it overcome larger foe? Does it exist in a swarm? How intelligent is the creature? In some stories dragons are devastating monsters that never speak a word and sleep on their treasure horde. In others, they talk and even participate in society. Has your creature learned to avoid mortal society? Or have they learned to infiltrate it…or rule it? How old is the creature? This works both for individual creatures and for a species. If a creature lives for millennia, how has it changed? What has it lived through? If a species has existed for only a few centuries, why? Did they have precursors they evolved from? Are they hunted? Particularly for dangerous creatures, are the societies around them large and advanced enough to undertake hunts to cull them? If yes, why has this particular creature survived?  How does it interact with other creatures in the story? Is it adversarial to your protagonist but buddies with everyone else? Does it forge a bond with your protagonist only? Maybe it’s not a scary monster but a kind and helpful one? Name? With some fantastical creatures the name can come first, but it’s always important to consider why it has the name it does. Did it claim its own name, or did others give it the name? Does it have different names in different cultures? Fantasy Generators If you want a jumping-off point for creating a fantasy creature, don’t be afraid to use an online fantasy creatures generator.  A few good ones include:  For generating names, story concepts, plot obstacles – it has a little bit of everything! A direct fantast creatures generator. For generating ideas and briefs for creatures. For help with fantasy creatures names’.  But do remember, when using these generators, you don’t have to stick to the ideas they give you!  Often the best way to use a fantasy creatures generator is to cherry-pick what you like and drop what you don’t. If you’re generating a name and like the suffix but not the main body of the word, keep the suffix and either come up with the rest yourself, or combine it with a body you like elsewhere in the generated list. Likewise with creature skills, weaknesses, looks and so on.  Conclusion Fantasy creatures have become truly iconic over the years. Having such a rich depth of reference points at our fingertips (from classic books and modern movies, to disturbing works of art and the internet) only makes our jobs as authors more fun.   Never has so much inspiration for such creatures been so accessible, across all cultures. And never before has such strong support existed for adventurous authors wanting to carve their own take on old monsters, as well as feature their own culture and legends into their own work.   So, when creating your fantastical monsters, remember that the sky is the limit. And for some truly horrifying creatures… there’s no limit at all as to how far you can go to make sure we never forget them. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How to Write a Believable Tragic Hero

Have you ever seen something terrible unfold right before your eyes? If so, you know that even if you want to, it’s hard to look away. In stories, the embodiment of that irresistible dread is the tragic hero – or what I like to call ‘the literary car crash’. Every story has a protagonist, or hero, and that hero usually faces some kind of conflict. Often they suffer hard lessons, but come out in the end with their conflict resolved; the hero is fulfilled, and the story ends on a happy note. Now, I love a happy ending – and absolutely refute the suggestion it lessens a work’s importance. But what if you want your readers to have a different response to the end of your story? What if you want them to feel pity, fear, or devastation for your protagonist? If that’s your intention, you might consider writing a tragic hero. In this guide, you’ll learn what makes a tragic hero, how those characteristics play out in some well-known examples, and how you can develop your own tragic hero with those examples in mind. What is a Tragic Hero? The tragic hero is a classic literary archetype, one that inspires compelling drama, conflict, and pathos. What makes this character (usually the protagonist) so intriguing is that, while they have admirable traits, one or more of those traits, in the extreme, ultimately causes their downfall. This unhappy irony provides a moral lesson and evokes sympathy from the reader – two reactions that leave a strong impression. What\'s the Difference Between a Tragic Hero and an Anti-Hero? Every novel needs a hero, but what kind will the protagonist of your novel be? Unlike a tragic hero, an anti-hero is someone who (even if they are the main character) lacks heroic qualities. They might do good things, but not necessarily for good reasons – think of Joe in the novel and TV adaptation, You. On the other hand, the tragic hero remains heroic with strong morals and good intentions, with the exception of their fatal flaw that trips them up. Readers want to read about both types of hero, but unlike with the anti-hero, we suffer as we stand by and watch our tragic hero’s demise. So, what are tragic heroes made of? Characteristics of Tragic Heroes According to history books, Aristotle coined the term ‘tragic hero’ (an archetype prominent in ancient Greek plays). He famously said that when a tragic hero meets his fate or demise, “pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves.” Using the ancient Greek tragedies as an example, the tragic hero has six main characteristics: Hubris – or arrogance, excessive pride.Hamartia – a fatal flaw; an error in judgement, or self-deception.Peripeteia – the sudden turning point; the error in judgement leading to a reversal of fortune.Anagnorisis – recognition of their tragic mistake.Nemesis – commonly known as ‘the enemy’, here it refers to the struggle with their own pride.Catharsis – pity and/or fear invoked in the reader/audience. Shakespeare’s plays also feature many iconic tragic heroes – Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo, Othello – with these characteristics. Macbeth, as a tragic hero, is riddled with flaws. The irony being that were he not so greedy or ambitious he would have managed to avoid all the horrors he encountered. Do tragic heroes always die? No. Shakespeare’s characters are unforgettable, and as a result people often think tragic heroes have to be larger than life and that their stories always end in death. But that’s not necessarily the case. Let’s examine some more modern tragic heroes, including a few of my favourites, keeping in mind the list of traits above. Tragic Hero Examples Isabel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady The young heroine of Henry James’ 19th century novel is beautiful, free-spirited, and idealistic. She turns down marriage proposals from two wealthy suitors, which impresses her cousin Ralph. He convinces his dying father to will her a large portion of his inheritance, hoping financial freedom will allow her intellect and independence to thrive. Instead, she falls for an impoverished dilettante, Gilbert Osmond, set up by Madame Merle, who she considers a friend. Despite Ralph’s warning, she marries Gilbert, certain of his love and moral character. Afterward, Gilbert controls her money and manipulates her affection for his daughter Pansy in a scheme to further his social standing. Her recognition of his deception alters her; once vibrant and optimistic, she becomes quiet, cautious, defensive. Thus, Ralph’s gift, intended to secure her liberty, becomes the instrument that traps her (and his misguided generosity, combined with his hubris of presuming her future, makes him a tragic hero too). Isabel walks into the trap because of her inability to see fault in those she loves, and pride in her own judgement. Even when she learns of her husband and friend’s betrayal (Merle is Pansy’s real mother), she chooses her notion of honour above her own happiness, as if in penance for her mistake. We feel sorrow on her behalf, because we can relate to the pain of choosing the wrong partner, and being betrayed by a friend. Stevens in The Remains of the Day Tragic heroes aren’t necessarily grand or likeable. The English butler in Kazuo Ishiguro’s post-WWII novel lives a life of service, dedicated to his employers and to his ideals of loyalty, dignity, and discretion. All fine qualities, but he takes them to the extreme, making him priggish and exasperating. Still, he merits sympathy, because his upbringing was constrained and unloving. As the novel progresses in flashbacks, we learn two things: 1) Stevens’ revered former employer, Lord Darlington, collaborated with the Nazis, tainting his legacy, and 2) Stevens repressed his romantic feelings for Miss Kenton, who worked as a housekeeper at Darlington Hall twenty years ago. In present time, he takes a road trip to visit her, after receiving a letter suggesting she’s unhappy in her marriage. When they finally reunite, the old attraction is still there. But while she admits it, he cannot. Once again, Stevens’ fear of change and intimacy prevents him from acting. The tragedy of his life is that he devoted it to an unworthy man, while turning away the one person who truly cared for and understood him. Worse, he doesn’t know what to do with his pain except to pretend he doesn’t feel it. And this makes him pitiable. We’ve discussed the appealing tragic hero and the infuriating one; now let’s study a character who’s a bit of both: Lila Cerrullo in The Neopolitan Novels One of two main protagonists in Elena Ferrente’s beloved four-part series, Lila is a brilliant visionary – talented, gorgeous, and fearless. She’s also arrogant, jealous, bitter, and vengeful. All of which makes her fascinating. With her beauty, intelligence, and charisma, she’s a natural prodigy. But her early promise is thwarted by the patriarchal confines of 1950s Italy – and her own self-destructive impulses. She makes dangerous enemies, and betrays (more than once) her best friend Lénu, who can never be sure which Lila she’ll encounter: the good or the wicked. Her unpredictability compels and disturbs Lénu, just as it does the reader. Their love/hate relationship fuels their lifelong, intimate rivalry, and propels this story for several generations. Lila isn’t the agent of all her miseries; terrible things happen outside of her control. At times, she acknowledges her flaws. This softens our judgement, and makes her sympathetic. But she turns her rage at the world inward, becoming so harsh, she repels those who would help her. She expects disappointment, a self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves her isolated and unloved. Finally, she chooses to disappear entirely, and it’s as if a scorching flame has been extinguished. In Lila, Ferrante created an unforgettable tragic character – one that bridges the line between hero and villain. More Examples Other tragic heroes from popular, modern-day books, movies, and TV shows include Lisbeth Salandar in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, June Osborne in The Handmaid’s Tale, Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars, Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Walter White in Breaking Bad, and Omar in The Wire. They differ from ‘pure’ heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, Tony Stark in Iron Man, Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, or Bella in Twilight because, while those heroes may suffer tragedies, they don’t have a hand in creating them. And their stories generally have an optimistic ending. How to Develop a Tragic Hero Now that you have an understanding of what defines a tragic hero, let’s review some key steps to help you write this type of character yourself: 1. Your protagonist should have some combination of virtuous, admirable, or advantageous traits. Give them a positive trait - honour, loyalty, kindness, intelligence, strength, talent, attractiveness, etc. Anything that would be deemed positive on the surface. 2. Develop one or more of these admirable traits as a ‘fatal flaw’. Dig beneath the surface. When taken to an extreme, something positive can turn negative, causing your protagonist to make decisions that lead to misfortune. This involves some form of hubris, pride, or misplaced faith on their part. What makes a fatal flaw tragic is that it comes from within, not by some outside force or event. 3. The progression of this fatal flaw should be believable. Meaning, it should be organic to the development of your character. For example, Isabel Archer In A Portrait of a Lady defends Gilbert Osmond against those who think he’s opportunistic because she believes they fault him for being poor. As she also came from modest means, she views this accusation as unfair. And because she personalises it, she can’t judge clearly. Therefore, her loyalty (a positive trait) is skewed by her own hubris, which becomes the cause of her downfall. Despite her intelligence, we believe she could make this kind of mistake, because her decision is caused by something elemental to her nature. 4. Due to this fatal flaw, your character must suffer a reversal of fortune. Often, this occurs at the novel’s peak, provoking the hero’s wrenching conflict. Watching a good situation turn bad, or happiness into despair, invokes our most primal fears. As a result, your reader feels invested and engaged. 5. Your protagonist must realise their tragic mistake. This twists the knife deeper. It’s one thing to fall from fortune’s grace, and another to know you’re the architect of your own misery. This recognition can be either profound or subtle. In The Remains of the Day, the butler Stevens doesn’t consciously acknowledge his error. But his last parting from Miss Kenton niggles at him, and when he reflects aloud about his dim future prospects, his body betrays him and he tears up. He pretends it’s just exhaustion – but the reader knows better, and feels pity. 6. The final outcome must be tragic, evoking sympathy and pathos. Your heroes don’t always have to die – but the consequences of their actions must be grave. Their suffering should outweigh their mistake. Even if your reader feels annoyed by their poor judgement, they should relate to this injustice and be more apt to forgive them. Create Your Own Tragic Hero Tragic heroes, unlike superheroes, are by nature flawed – and therefore someone we can relate to. In their flaws, we see our own. In their stories, we recognise plausible conflicts. And as we project our emotions onto these characters, we experience outcomes that are devastating, digesting their moral lessons without having to suffer in real life. This is the catharsis Aristotle described, and the effect you want from your reader. As you begin to construct your own tragic hero, think of some favourable traits you possess or see in others that, in its extreme form, could be a tragic flaw. Have you had or know of an experience where good intentions drastically backfired? Have you ever been betrayed or blindsided? What are the moral dilemmas you want to explore? The best writing comes from a place of deep personal connection. Find that hot spot within yourself, consider the dramatic possibilities, and then imbue your hero with all the wonderfully complex tragedy they can – or can’t – handle. Make your readers enjoy their sweet suffering as they watch the character they’ve learned to love destroy their own life. Not all great endings are happy ones…but most do shine with a little hope and a hearty lesson. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

What Is A Foil Character?

You’ve taken the time to write a perfectly flawed character, you’ve ticked all the literary boxes making sure they have a solid backstory, they have a clear motivation and you’ve taken the time to showcase witty or cynical dialogue. Yet somehow there’s still something missing, that missing gem that you can’t quite put your finger on. Why isn’t your character shining?  Fear not, because I’m about to explain how to polish your power as a writer by using a foil character. Foil characters are an incredibly powerful and yet often subtle device to showcase and emphasise certain character traits in your MC, by offering another character in a contrasting light.  In this short piece, I will explain what a foil character is, how to use them effectively, and give examples of foils in literature, as well as film. I will also be showing you how to get the most of these often-forgetful characters, which when used effectively will give your characters that little extra time in the spotlight.   Before I continue, here’s a little fun fact for you!  Foil was once placed behind gems to make them shine brighter. Clever, hey? I’m going to let you in on a secret, that is exactly what a foil character does!  So let’s look a little closer at these magical tricksters.  What Are Foil Characters? A foil character by definition is a device used by writers to contrast or reflect another character – often your protagonist (main character)- by highlighting their traits, appearance, personality or morals.  Often, a foil in literature comes in the form of an antagonist (an adversary) but they can also be a sidekick, mentor, friend or parent; they can also even be an animal, or a subplot which foils your character’s progress. By using a foil character, you will essentially be shining a spotlight on your character’s attributes and behaviour, revealing those contrasting elements.  How Foil Characters Are Used A good foil character will draw your reader’s attention to the qualities of your protagonist, often without your reader even knowing you’re doing it. This can be done in a variety of ways. Let’s take a look at some contrasting examples and match them to famous foil characters.  Your protagonist may be a law-abiding citizen, so the foil could be a law breaker (think how different Harry Potter’s friends, Hermione and Ron, are). An adventurous character may have a more cautious foil (look at the old man and the boy scout in the animation Up).A more reserved character may have a loud friend (the perfect example of this is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).One may be violent and one wanting to keep the peace (Tybalt trying to fight a loved-up Romeo).  Foil characters can be used in a variety of ways, but whichever way you wish to do this, a good foil can make all the difference to how the reader identifies with your character. This adds to the underlying strength of your writing and may not be so obvious to your reader without their inclusion.  Motivation Foil characters are there not only to highlight how different they are from another character, but also to help the reader see what it is that motivates them.   For example, by having a foil character as a close member of the family, who perhaps often puts the safety of the family in danger, the protagonist’s determination to fix the foil’s mistakes or do the polar opposite with his own choices, shows the reader his motivation is to protect his family. A perfect example of this is Alex and her mother in the Netflix series Maid.  Backstory A foil can also highlight the differences in your character’s upbringing or background.  Picture a scene showing your protagonist as someone who comes from a deprived background that they have kept hidden but who has worked their way up and is now starting to finally believe they belong at the posh business lunch with their new peers. Now say they use the wrong etiquette in this social situation; perhaps they return a palette cleansing sorbet when it’s first served to them, saying they didn’t order it. On its own, we wouldn’t perhaps see the significance of the sorbet being a standard part of this kind of luncheon, but by having a foil character alongside the MC accepting the sorbet without a second thought highlights the MC\'s mistake. Although the protagonist is now qualified and being accepted in their new world, this underlying fear of not quite belonging would be subtly highlighted, drawing deeper empathy and understanding from your reader.  Setting You can also use a setting as a foil. In Harry Potter, for example, we have Harry living in the cupboard under the stairs, then in huge contrast we have Hogwarts will all its majesty, magic and splendour, highlighting the very different life he has now been thrown into. Animals Yes, that’s right, animals can be great foils too. Bagheera in The Jungle Book serves as a brilliant foil, being a mature and cautious character as opposed to Mowgli’s inexperienced youth and adventure. Subplots Subplots can also serve as a foil, literally foiling the plans of your main character. All you need is the same problem and two different characters solving that problem in different ways.  In Lord of the Rings, for example, we have Boromir and Faramir, brothers who are charged with protecting Gondor and whose motivation is driven by gaining their father’s approval. Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo to gain power over the enemy, in contrast, Faramir allows Frodo to take the ring to destroy the enemy. Not only are these both foil characters in their own right, but this subplot highlights how the ring can influence everyone around it and has the reader focussing on how different personality traits in the many subplots surrounding Frodo’s journey can determine the fate of the story. At its core, a foil character helps the reader understand the traits and motivations of other characters, helping them identify good from evil, strength from weakness, dark versus light. Examples Of Foil Characters Some of the most famous foil characters in movies include Captain America and Iron Man, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and not to mention Superman who has the perfect foil character in his alter ego, Clark Kent.  As for foil characters in literature, there are far too many to count. Let’s look at the classic example of Wuthering Heights, and the more contemporary novel, Me Before You.   In Wuthering Heights we have Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. These foil characters are set up not only in personality but in physical appearances too. Edgar is fair, with blonde hair and blue eyes, whereas Heathcliff has dark hair and dark eyes. Both men have contrasting upbringings too - Heathcliff an adopted orphan, Linton brought up in a wealthy family. Not to mention their differences in demeanour towards Catherine; Heathcliff is passionate and moody around her, yet Linton treats Catherine with kindness. We even have a setting foil in the dark and menacing Wuthering Heights, which reflects and strengthens Heathcliff’s doomed passion and strength whilst sitting in direct contradiction to Thrushcross Grange, a setting filled with wealth but essentially etched in kindness. It is with the use of these opposing sides of the story, each side underscoring the differences in the other, that makes it such a powerful and evocative narrative.  Let’s now examine a completely different type of love story, Me Before You.  This novel serves as a brilliant example of contrasting characters, using foils in a slightly less dramatic way that is equally effective. And it does so with the two foils barely having any direct contact with each other. To begin with, let’s look at the setting and subplot. At the beginning of the story Lou is living in a small and crowded house filled with family and noise, we discover that money is tight and this is one of the reasons she’s wasted her potential to become a fashion designer and finds herself applying for a job looking after Will, a quadriplegic, at Granta House. In contrast to her own home, Will’s is empty, tidy, quiet and his family distant and non-communicative.  Louisa has a boyfriend in the form of personal trainer and wannabe-athlete, Patrick, who is obsessed with training for triathlons; again, the complete opposite to Will. Patrick often puts his own wants and needs above Louisa’s, displayed clearly when he books ‘them’ a holiday but is actually an excuse so he can take part in the Extreme Viking challenge. Once Louisa gets the job at Granta House, she is given the task of companionship to wealthy and, at first, hostile Will. Although Will is rude and closed with Louisa at the beginning of the story, the two form a bond with Lou’s primary goal to fill Will’s life with fun and adventure despite his injuries. With Patrick, she is desperate to avoid Patrick’s fun activities and would much prefer a less exhausting relationship.  What the author, Jojo Moyes, does so brilliantly in this example, is she uses the foil characters to reflect the opposing traits of both Will and Patrick onto Lou so that she begins to see all the things that both foil characters bring out in herself.  In the one scene where Will and Patrick do meet, Patrick gives Lou a birthday gift of a gold necklace with a star pendant which is nothing like the type of jewellery she has ever worn and doesn’t suit her at all. In contrast, Will gets her a pair of black and yellow tights, a replica of a pair she had loved when she was a child, revealing how Will understands and knows her better than her boyfriend of several years. And although Will is wealthy, and Patrick is not, it wasn’t the expensive gift that impressed her.  By highlighting the differences between Patrick and Will to the reader, Moyes uses this device to also reveal these oppositional aspects to her character, Lou. It is then through this contrasting lens, that Lou understands how different she is with both men. With Patrick, she accommodates his needs, is unhappy and bound to a life she doesn’t want while wasting her potential. With Will, she realises that he’s putting her needs before his own, that she is happy when she is with him and ultimately discovers she is capable of achieving her full potential in the life she wants. Conclusion In short, foil characters are often the unsung heroes of the literary world. Although sometimes minor characters (often even forgettable) what they do is shine a light on your main character, making them three-dimensional and stand out on your page.   When defining foil characters, think of them as a pinch of salt in your caramel sauce. It may play a small role, the main ingredients are big hitters (syrup, butter, cream) but it’s that little hit of contrast, that your guests may not even know is there, that cuts through and makes the rest of the ingredients that much sweeter!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How to Create a Character Bio Template

How to Create a Character Bio Template You have a great idea for a book, but you don’t yet know anything about your main character (being ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ is not enough to move a story forward). Or perhaps you’re struggling with your latest novel and can’t work out your character’s motivation. Elevating a book from a good idea, to a compelling and addictive read, hinges on deep characterisation. This is where a well-crafted character bio template comes in. Or, in this case, all the ingredients you need to create your own bespoke character profile template. You can also sign up for our FREE Jericho Writers Character Building worksheet. What is a Character Profile? A character profile is a document that you, as an author, compiles during the (preferably) beginning stages of a first draft. The character template should document everything about your character’s life – from how they look to mannerisms and their back story. A character profile template will allow you to keep all the important details about your protagonist/antagonist in one place to be used as a writing resource when attempting your first draft. It can also be a handy tool to check details and continuity during the editing process.  But don’t be intimidated!  Character template writing needn’t be boring or laborious. And your character bios don’t have to be cumbersome, lengthy or complicated. There are no hard and fast ‘rules’ about what you can and can’t include. In short, your character template sheet should be crammed with as much information as you can think of. Why is a Character Bio Important? Writing your character creation template is important, because if you don’t understand your character fully, then neither will your readers.  We all know that the concept or plot is what makes us read the first few chapters, but it’s the characters that keep us turning the pages. In fact, even the most implausible story ideas can capture the hearts of many, if they get the connection with the characters right.  Take, for instance, the story of Eleanor Oliphant, in the novel Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Any other character in her place, anyone less unique and complicated than her, would have made an intriguing and riveting book really quite dull. Readers get invested in a story because they relate to the character on the page, or because they are invested in their growth. They stick around because the characters feel real.  But characters won’t feel real to your readers if they aren’t real to you. So how do you create that with the help of a character bio profile?* *Before we start - a word of warning Once you learn the art of writing a character profile template, you will never look at your characters the same way again.  So let’s begin… What to Include in Your Character Bio Template Creating a character profile will essentially develop the bible that your leading players will live by. And although 90% of what you discover about your characters will never make it to your novel, having a deeper understanding of your characters and their motivations means that when you put them in certain situations, they will show their true selves in the most natural way. There are plenty of detailed character profile templates out there for you to use, adapt, and play with. Some are spreadsheets, some Word documents, some forms to fill in. But I think the best way to get to know your characters is to develop your own outline based on the questions highlighted in this article. Whether that means cutting and pasting my prompts into a Word doc, or even buying a notebook and filling it with nothing but characterisation notes, you need to construct a template of headers and questions that work for you! Let’s start with the simple questions first. Basic Characteristics It’s so important to be able to see your characters in your mind, therefore start with what they look like and who they are.  NameAgeNationality Don’t skip the easy stuff, but don’t stop there. When deciding on a character name, question why.  Was that name passed down by a grandmother? Does that mean that family ties are important to this character?  Something as basic as a name can throw up so much depth and understanding about a character, and small important details can be dropped into your novel to add depth and roundness. Same applies to their nationality and heritage. Physical Attributes Again, these help your reader see your character. Start with: Hair colour Eye colour HeightAny physical disabilities Then take those simple thoughts and dig around some more.  What about that scar on his left cheek? Why is that there? Who gave it to him and why? Is he self-conscious about it? Does this change his behaviour when out in public?Does she have painted nails, or chipped bitten nails? Could this be a sign of vanity, or maybe those bitten nails are a sign of anxiety? Personal Preferences of the Character (e.g. political / tastes / cultural) You can have a lot of fun with this one. Start with the basics and ask why:  Favourite colourFavourite foodFavourite musicFavourite restaurantReligious beliefsSpiritual beliefsPolitical affiliations Then, get deeper still… Is there is a certain phrase your character says all the time?Do they swear and if so, what cuss words does he/she prefer? What hobbies does your character have? Why? Where would we find your character on a wet and rainy day? How would a typical weekend play out in your character\'s world? The answers to these questions will filter in like softly spun gold through the pages of your novel. Health What’s your character’s health like?  Smoker?Drinker?Exercise regularly? Health can be a big issue in our day to day lives, so we should be aware of it with our characters, too. You would be surprised how much of a difference it makes when creating a well-rounded character. Could bad health or hypochondria run the family? Does your character use health issues as a barrier? Do they eat well, or binge eat late at night? Why? Do they walk with a slight hunch due to consistent back pain that they have grown accustomed to living with over the years? Career and Education Even if this isn’t mentioned explicitly in your novel, knowing how your character acted at school and what they do for a living is so important. A career can signal so much about a person and can help you develop who they are simply by looking at what they have chosen to dedicate their life to.  Does the character have a job?How long have they been in chosen career?Are they happy?What job would they choose if they could retrain?Is their job important to them?What are their main priorities in life and where does career fit in? Remember that most of our adult life is spent working with, and surrounded by, others. Work life can change a personality completely.  How does your character view their work colleagues? And how do they feel about your character? Does your character get involved with colleagues outside of work hours, and how does this affect their work/home life balance?What is their greatest career achievement?How did they do in school? Were they popular? Did their early school life affect their chosen career? Asking questions like these can help you figure out the motivation and underlying issues your character is dealing with. If it’s a sense of loneliness, has it been there since school? If it’s a sense of entitlement, could that have come from their upbringing?  Flesh out the ‘whys’ and enhance your character development, and the plot twists (or holes) will reveal themselves. Personality Traits This will most likely be the most in-depth section of your character template – but again, don’t stick to the surface. Even if you have decided your character is mean, narcissistic, and aggressive, ask yourself why. What happened in the past to make them this way?  Are they… Cautious or spontaneous? A daredevil or worry-wart? Why? Do they act the same way around other people or does bravado make this person take risks they wouldn’t normally?An optimist or pessimist?An introvert or extrovert?What do you think is your character’s biggest flaw? What does your character believe is their biggest flaw?What is their greatest strength? Get down to the nitty gritty, even if most of this won’t appear in your book. Start asking questions that really test you as a creative writer. Ask questions that will push you to find out the deeper motivations, such as: What is your characters biggest regret? Why?What is their darkest secret? And how would they react if someone found out?Are they the type to crumble under interrogation, or lie to conceal the truth? Family and Relationships This is an important section of your character trait bible because it’s not until you begin excavating relationship dynamics, that you truly get to know who you’re writing about. Don’t be surprised if your plot changes as your main character deepens. Ask yourself these questions: Spouse/significant other?Are the character’s parents still around?Do they have any siblings?Are they the oldest/youngest in the family?Is there an extended family/family support system? Again, this is surface-level, but look what happens when you start digging a little deeper… How do they get on with each of the family members? What do those family members think of your character? Would they be honest about this to their face and if not why?What’s the character’s first/oldest memory?What member of their family/support system would your character turn to in a crisis?How would they react?Does your character trust members of the family and vice versa?If your character is married, where did they meet? Love at first sight? Were friends happy about the union? Were family members accepting? At this stage you may even find yourself creating complicated spider diagrams to see how your main character connects with the rest of the cast. Don’t be surprised if this exercise begins to alter your plot and deepen your twists. Life Stages, Milestones, and Backstory This section is generally filled with information that you (and only you) will ever know about your character, because no one needs to endure an ‘info dump’ about each character’s backstory. However, small nuggets of this information will always feed into your story if you are adding the required depth of character. So it’s important to know the following before you start: What stage in life is my character in at the start of the story?What stage of life will they be in at the end?What has been the character’s greatest achievement in life?What has been their top three life defining moments? If ‘X’ hadn’t happened to your character, how would life be different now?How would your character describe their life right now? List the major life events in chronological order from birth to now and highlight major events that have changed the course of their life. Look at you go! The character that you only previously knew as ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ is fast becoming a fascinating, deep, and 3D guy. Let’s go deeper. Character Perspectives, Outlook, and Opinions You may think your characters don’t have opinions yet, but that’s because you haven’t asked them. By this point in your character profile template, you should know so much about your character, that this section will seem instinctive. Be prepared, because many of the opinions you discover they have may not be your own. But you have built this fictional person, given them features, history, flaws, and dreams… so you shouldn’t be surprised when they suddenly have their own opinions. What do they think of the state of the world right now? What is the one thing they would change if they could?What is the one thing holding them back from true happiness right now? And do they really believe they will be happy if that one thing were to change? In this section, try to be honest and answer from your character’s point of view, not your own. If your character is lying to you (and you know it), ask yourself what they are afraid of. You must be willing to ask, listen, and analyse.  And finally, ask some of your own questions. These are a few that have arisen after years or doing this exercise: Who is your character’s biggest inspiration and why?How does your character spend the week before this story begins?If your character could jump back in time to one particular point, where would it be and why?What is your character’s most prized possession?Name four things your character would change about themselves. How to Develop Your Character Profile Template Essentially, what you are doing with a character bio template, is sitting down with a large pot of tea and a box of tissues and asking an imaginary person as many deep and meaningful questions as you can.  You are the therapist who wants to know all their secrets, worries, and desires. You are interviewing them for the story of their lives, and you are not leaving until you know each and every last detail.  It’s up to you how you put your character profile template together, whether you go for handwritten notes or a fancy spreadsheet, just remember - the deeper you dig, the more gold you will find.  Once you have built a detailed psychological profile of each important character, you will have all the power you need to help make them come alive on the page! And who knows? It may even inspire new plot twists and scenarios or highlight plot holes. Deep Characterisation is Vital in Good Storytelling As much as we love to plan and predict what we are writing, there’s nothing more exciting for a writer than when a twist comes out of the blue and you didn’t see it coming. Often that’s a matter of chance, but not now. Now you know exactly how your character will react, and why, those twists will be much easier to write. Your character bio template not only helps when creating your first draft, it also acts as the perfect reference guide and checklist during edits. For instance, if you can’t remember the name of your MC’s sister’s boyfriend, no problem, because you will have written all that information down in your ‘family and relationships’ section. Finding and dealing with continuity issues in your manuscript is so much easier if you have a reference guide to check – and it will also save you a lot of hassle when your editor and proof-readers ask for a list of names and places. It’s also invaluable when writing a series of books, as it saves you having to re-read your books to remember back story and character traits. Essentially, your character bio template can be anything you want it to be, as long as it helps you see, smell, touch, and hear your characters in your mind. No one else in the world needs to know any of the answers to these questions because it’s up to you what to reveal to your readers and what to keep hidden. But truly knowing your characters like this means you will create well-rounded, real, and vivid characters that will jump from the page and capture the heart of your readers. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.

How Mannerisms Can Create Memorable Characters

What Are Mannerisms, And How Can They Help You Create Memorable Characters That Jump Off The Page? How do you create characters that feel real? The best stories are brought to life by characters that jump off the page – they are three-dimensional, rather than two-dimensional – as if they’re sat right beside you.  We understand it can sometimes be challenging to do this. After all, strong characters are the heart and soul of every story. One of the most effective ways you can do this in your novel, using a classic ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method, is through character mannerisms. These are an essential way of breathing life into your character. They can elevate your writing to the next level, helping your readers feel more invested in your characters naturally and organically, ensuring they’re still thinking about them long after they’ve finished the final chapter. But firstly, let’s ask ourselves: What exactly are character mannerisms? Mannerism Definition: Mannerisms are the things that people do repeatedly without realising. They are typically unconscious gestures, vocal tics, or expressions. They can be things that people do with their hands, faces or voices – they might do them repeatedly and not even realise they’re doing them. As mannerisms are individual quirks, they can be a great way to build a character’s personality. For example, when considering how to convey strong emotions, it can be useful to look at a list of mannerisms for specific emotional responses. Mannerism Examples There’s a reason why fiction writers are always people-watching. We love to see how individuals act, and how they react. We don’t all act the same way when shocked or angry. Let’s take a look at some standard mannerisms of everyday emotions and see if you can add any of your own. Mannerisms Of A Sad Character Wobbling lipWiping their eyesLooking upwards to bat away tearsLooking downwards at their feet to avoid eye contactFidgeting with their handsStumbling over their wordsHigh-pitched voiceCoughing to clear their throatBiting their fingernails Mannerisms Of A Happy Character Open body languageThey make tactile movements, such as touching, stroking, and hugging other charactersLaughter and smilingHumming and singingDemonstrate politeness through gestures such as holding a door open for othersDaydreamingSing-song speech patternShortness of breath from speaking too fast and too excitedlyGesturing wildly with their hands while talkingSwinging arms when walking around Sad and happy are quite general emotions, so let’s look at a list of mannerisms for something a bit more specific, like a character who is displaying narcissistic traits, or one who is shy. These types of character traits offer the opportunity to link the character’s mannerisms with their back story and development (a very important aspect of mannerisms that we will explore further in this article).  For example, your character may be timid due to past trauma, a phobia, or a history of abuse – or from having a narcissistic parent. Mannerisms Of A Narcissistic Character Frequently looking at themselves in the mirror and constantly checking their appearanceExaggerating, bragging, or lying about their achievements or talents, and seeking out constant praise and admirationDemeaning or belittling others – they might do this by interrupting other characters and speaking over themPhysical mannerisms might include smirking and sneering and rolling their eyes when others are talkingConfident physical traits – they will likely have a strong posture, with a confident stance and walk with a swaggerLoud speaking voice and loud laugh Mannerisms Of A Timid Character Jumpy and flinching at sudden noisesIsolating themselves, they’re often on their ownNervous around strangersStuttering and stammering and are quite often tongue-tiedNatural response is to freeze in high-pressure or high-stress environmentsShaking – physically with their hands or in their voiceSpeaking quietly and softly, and less frequently than other charactersShowing general social awkwardness – difficulty engaging in conversations, maintaining eye contact, joining in on jokes etc Speech And Dialogue Aside from emotions, there are also mannerisms you can give your characters to elevate them from the page and bring them to life. These can be intertwined with speech and dialogue. Think about the following… Volume: Does their voice boom, or are they softly spoken?Where do they come from, and does it affect how they speak?Do they have an accent? Are there certain phrases they use frequently?Do they talk more than they listen? Do they interrupt other characters?Speed: Do they speak quickly or slowly? Are buffer words such as ‘like’ or ‘erm’ used frequently? (Only add these if they are part of the character traits, or it will be distracting for your readers).Do they make physical noises, like coughing, laughing, clearing their throat, or muttering? Physical Character Traits There are also physical mannerisms that can convey a sense of who they are to a reader. Perhaps a character plays with her hair, implying she’s flirting, or maybe it’s a nervous habit. If they are anxious, they may tense their jaw, grind their teeth, or rub the back of their neck or temples. These physical reactions work well in moments of high-stakes tension.  Think about what a character is doing with their body, as well as what they are saying or thinking. Biting their lip or the inside of their cheek might be seen as a sign of nerves, worry or a lack of confidence. What are they doing with their eyes? Both strong eye contact or avoiding/breaking eye contact can convey emotions or depict personality types. And finally, posture - how does your character present themselves? Do they stand confidently with their shoulders back, or are they slumped over? A broad stance or a slouch can say a lot about a character and offer an immediate impression to a reader. Using External Interactions Considering how your characters physically interact with objects and the environment around them is another important aspect of character building. For example, if they wear glasses, are they repeatedly pushing them further up their nose? Do they take them off and rub their bloodshot eyes? Do they clean them with a handkerchief while pondering in a moment of thought? Imagine our character holding a pen. Would they tap it against the table, annoying other characters? Would they doodle absentmindedly on a blank page while in a daydream? Maybe they’d chew the end of the pen if they’re nervous? Or click it repeatedly? There are many ways you can use external objects or surroundings to add new layers to your character’s personality. Creating Tension And Conflict Mannerisms can also be an excellent tool to create tension and conflict between characters. Conflict is one of the most vital aspects of every story and every character arc (check out our free character arc guide and template for your character development). Without conflict and something for your characters to overcome, there is no story. But how can mannerisms add to this? The conflict and tension concerning an individual mannerism can’t be instant, as the mannerism needs to be well-established. But once it is, then it’s the perfect opportunity to have another character pick up on the quirk or trait and interact with it. For example, they could ask that person to stop doing it (because they’re finding it irritating, and it could be the final straw that makes them snap). Or they could ask why they always do it (inviting a conversation, and maybe creating or diffusing tension, about how that specific mannerism is linked to their back story).  Individual literary genres tend to approach internal and external conflict differently; our blog about conflict in genre writing breaks this concept down in further detail. Let’s go recap all we need to know about creating believable characters through their mannerisms. Character Mannerisms: What To DO ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ It’s the age-old writing advice, but it’s especially relevant when writing character mannerisms. Don’t have your character simply saying “I’m sad” – instead, make them wipe away a tear slowly rolling down their flushed cheek. Link Mannerisms To A Vital Part Of A Character’s Back Story For example, they shouldn’t be shy or awkward for absolutely no reason. Perhaps it’s linked to a childhood experience when they were humiliated at school, and now they find crowds difficult to handle. Our blog about characterisation and character development is a useful resource for creating meaningful backstories and character arcs.  Try And Avoid Clichés Some mannerisms are overused and can therefore turn a reader off (our blog about avoiding clichés and writing believable characters is an excellent guide). Think outside the box if you can and consider how you or other people act subconsciously in certain situations. Sometimes it can help to observe people and actions in these settings.  Character Mannerisms: What NOT To Do Repeat The Mannerism Too Frequently It might distract from the character and the story, and become annoying for the reader. However, on the other hand, don’t just add the odd mannerism in as a throwaway gesture; otherwise, it won’t be memorable enough. Leave Mannerisms As An After-Thought These mannerisms should act as the backbone of your character. They should be deeply connected to who they are as a person and why they act (or don’t act) the way they do. Why Your Character’s Mannerisms Are Important In a nutshell, mannerisms are typically the things people repeatedly do without realising, which means they are an extremely useful tool for developing character personalities and backstories.  As writers, we know that there’s a huge sense of achievement in creating memorable characters that jump off the page and stay with the reader long after they’ve put the book down. That’s exactly why it’s worth investing the time into creating mannerisms for your character – therefore revealing who they are and helping the reader to understand them on a much deeper level.  Just remember not to use mannerisms for the sake of it – always ensure that they tie into your character’s personality, background, and development. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero\'s Journey - Writing a Compelling Story One of the most compelling storytelling structures that writers can use is The Hero’s Journey. In 1949, Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces, where he discusses the central myth which he argues is at the heart of all stories. However you look at it, the Hero’s Journey has formed the basis for the narrative arc of a wide variety of literary works across time and all cultures – something we’ll look at within this article. Mostly though, this story structure offers a great way to give your narrative both a strong arc and emotional power. In this guide, you’ll learn the essential steps involved in the Hero’s Journey in order to structure your novel with style. What is the Hero\'s Journey? The Hero’s Journey is a particular structure in which the lead – otherwise known as a hero, heroine or protagonist – is called to head off on a journey or adventure in response to facing a problem or challenge. This issue leads them to set a specific narrative goal and they go off to achieve this, finding allies and facing enemies and their own weaknesses along the way. Once this aim has been achieved, the much-changed protagonist then returns home, bringing wisdom and knowledge to share with their community and loved ones. You’ve probably already realised from just reading the above summary that most literature uses this particular storytelling structure. In fact, it has similarities to the three act structure which is also used in drama and screenplays, as well as novels and memoirs to create a powerful narrative arc. In the rest of this article, I’m going to set out the main steps of the Hero’s Journey, so you can use them to build your own compelling story. Stages of the Hero\'s Journey All stories can be broken down into three stages — the beginning, middle and end — and the Hero’s Journey is no different in the way that it is comprised of three main sections: Departure, Initiation and Return. The opening Departure section is very much focused on the way the hero is called to go on a quest (often reluctantly) due to having to deal with a problem or challenge. The Initiation then takes place after they embark on their journey and begin to face obstacles, temptations and fears and develop skills and wisdom as a result which allow them to attain their narrative goal. Hence, once this has been achieved, they return home triumphant and often more enlightened than before.  If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’re probably thinking of how the geeky teen, Luke Skywalker, gets pushed by tragedy into his Hero’s Journey of becoming a Jedi (he even mucks that up!), before defeating evil (cue scary Darth Vader voice!) — and you’d be right on the money, as George Lucas was profoundly influenced by Campbell’s work. Steps of the Hero\'s Journey In Campbell’s original breakdown of the Hero’s Journey, the hero’s story is comprised of seventeen steps. However, in 1993, Vogler broke down this storytelling structure into just twelve steps in his book, The Writer’s Journey, making it much easier for authors to use. In this guide, we’ll utilise this twelve stage model and I’ll go through it step by step.  1. Ordinary World At the start of the Hero’s Journey, we get a glimpse of the everyday life of the lead and the unique world they inhabit. This allows us to grasp the setting if it’s something unusual like we see in sci-fi or fantasy, but we are also able to start to get to know the hero and care about them, as well as noting some of their particular strengths and weaknesses which may get in their way.  2. The Call to Adventure This is what might also be seen as the narrative’s inciting incident or trigger as it’s what really sets the story and the whole Departure section of the book going.  It involves the hero having to face a problem or challenge – just as in the classical story of The Odyssey, Odysseus is called to fight the Trojans. 3. Refusal of the Call The hero doesn’t simply trot off on their journey though – Odysseus struggles with leaving his family and similar inner conflicts beset most leads during this stage, including fear at what might befall them if they accept the call. By showing these doubts, the humanity of the hero is revealed and the high stakes of the journey ahead are brought into focus, increasing the narrative tension in a very potent way. 4. Meeting with the Mentor At this point, the hero meets a mentor who offers advice and wisdom for the journey ahead and whose presence often helps them overcome their reluctance to embark on their journey. (Do we need to mention Yoda here? \"Do or do not\", my writer friends.) This step is important as we come to understand that the quest is something difficult which requires support, as well as personal bravery, and the encounter with the mentor shows that this is a spiritual and personal path, as well as a more concrete journey to get a certain goal.  5. Crossing the First Threshold Here, the hero leaves their ordinary world and takes the decision to embark on their journey. This is incredibly important, as despite the call to adventure having started the story off in some sense, the real adventure begins now for the hero as they leave behind everything they know and walk into a realm of external dangers and personal doubts.  We only have to think of the terrifying quest Frodo and Sam go on in Lord of the Rings to understand how powerful this moment can be in a story as our rather vulnerable, tiny Hobbit heroes shed safety and familiarity to pursue a noble goal. This setting off closes the Departure part of the story and we now see the hero enter the Initiation stage of their journey. 6. Test, Allies and Enemies Having committed to their journey, the hero now has to learn the rules of the new world they’ve entered, encountering friends who will act as supportive confidant(e)s and sidekicks during their quest, as well as dastardly foes who often present terrifying obstacles.  This first section of the Initiation is important in developing the story’s cast of characters, including the hero’s allies and establishing those who will oppose them, such as a vile villain, increasing the stakes by showing that the road ahead will not be easy, despite the hero having assistance.  7. Approach to the Innermost Cave The rising action of the book will see failures and setbacks, with the hero often facing multiple obstacles or finally progressing towards their narrative goal, only to confront an even bigger challenge from enemies, or even due to their own inner fears and flaws. This rises to the point that, in the innermost cave, they’re really in deep and are feeling the pain of their journey! For example, in The Odyssey, the crew opens a bag of winds which blow them far away again when they were almost home – doh! In this second dramatic part of the Initiation, the hero thus needs to persist and be flexible in their approach in the face of these nightmares, trying new ways to reach their aims, as the stakes are rising and they know that the cost of failing to achieve their journey’s end is far too high. 8. The Ordeal You think it was tough in the innermost cave? Well, now the hero faces a major obstacle — often a life or death ordeal.  What’s worse, this challenge often highlights their character flaws to boot, showing they need to overcome their weaknesses or perish. Most heroes barely get out of this ordeal alive, leaving the Initiation phase of their journey in tatters and with readers on the edge of their seat wondering how the heck they’ll ever complete their journey.  For example, you thought the bags of wind were bad for Odysseus? Now, he has to go to the Underworld! (You cannot be kidding me!)  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword) But, hey, it’s not all bad as, after surviving death, the hero gets a reward – maybe even achieving their journey’s goal, such as grabbing the Ring and tossing it away so it cannot darken the world any more. This is a great moment of success and celebration in the story and the hero has clearly emerged from their trials an improved person, although we may not see the full extent of this yet as they still have other preoccupations. However, now the hero has their goal, they need to Return to their ordinary world in the third section – and that’s often not as easy as it sounds. 10. The Road Back After all the challenges of the Initiation phase, meeting new friends and facing off with foes, the hero who left their home isn’t the same person who returns. Hence reintegrating into their old reality can come as another form of challenge in this final part of the story.  In fact, they may not even want to go back! The reluctance to embark on their journey which we saw at the beginning of the story may reappear to haunt the hero as they now cannot imagine returning to their ordinary world, showing just how much the struggles they’ve been through have changed their character. 11. The Resurrection If you thought it was just a case of the hero getting home now, I’m afraid they have to face yet more trouble in terms of a test which puts at stake everything they’ve achieved. This is where the personality changes and skillsets they’ve developed from their challenging journey become obvious and they realise they’re made for the times they’re facing. Hence they emerge as a resurrected hero — reborn from the one who embarked at the beginning. This part is obviously important for adding climactic drama to keep readers engaged right ‘til the end – they think they’ve killed the alien, or other baddie, but they’re back! – and showcasing the full depth of the lead’s character development. 12. Return with the Elixir The hero returns home with knowledge or a particular ‘elixir’ or item which symbolises their achievements on their journey and this is often used to help others. This altruistic result is the real reward for their battles and represents deep personal and spiritual transformation, bringing the Return section and the story as a whole to a close in a way which hopefully leaves the reader both satisfied and enlightened. The Hero\'s Journey in Literature As you can see from my examples above, the Hero’s Journey is prominent in both film and literature. From classical storytelling to more modern sci-fi and fantasy, the Hero’s Journey has given powerful narrative arcs to many great works.  Indeed, if you look carefully enough, even many contemporary crime novels or TV series will feature a reluctant detective who, at first, is scared to take the case – perhaps due to retirement or trauma – who then changes their mind and solves the murder.  The Hero’s Journey has thus influenced many writers across the ages and across all literary genres, but it’s still important to note that not all stories follow this paradigm – so, if it’s not inspiring for you, then don’t use it! Using the Hero\'s Journey to Tell Your Story If you have found the structure set out above to be thought-provoking or something which might fit your story, then the Hero’s Journey model can easily be applied to your writing project. Structure is such a key part of creating a compelling story and the Hero’s Journey offers a clear way to build a potent narrative arc. It’s important to plan ahead though, when using this paradigm, fitting your narrative to the three stages of Departure, Initiation and Return and plotting your scenes along the steps above. Consider your hero’s particular personal flaws, just as Shakespeare often did in his tragedies — making Othello too jealous, for example – in order to set out how your hero might trip themselves up, or what would absolutely freak them out (like Indiana Jones and snakes!) in order to really test them on their journey. You might also riff on the reasons they might be reluctant to embark on their quest – such as family commitments or outright fear, and who might act as a wise mentor and change their minds, or boost them up as allies along the way.  It’s also important to think of a strong opposition figure who is out to stop them achieving their journey’s goal as this is great for adding conflict and tension. The Hero\'s Journey is in so Many Stories As you’ve seen, the Hero’s Journey is present in so many of the stories which surround us — and for good reason as it provides a fantastic narrative structure which allows for deep character development, high drama and profound emotion. Although every story has a hero, not every story is a Hero’s Journey, yet this storytelling structure has a lot to teach all authors. Try it with your adventure or quest novel, and see how far you and your hero get. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Anti-Hero Vs Villain – A Complete Guide

The relationship between an engaging protagonist and a compelling antagonist against the backdrop of an intriguing plot is what ensures a reader will continue to turn the page. But should your protagonist be an anti-hero – an underdog who goes against the grain of the typical \'hero\'? And what about the antagonist in the story – the character who will stop your protagonist from getting what they want? Is your antagonist somebody morally ambiguous, like an anti-villain? Or are they purely a villain, through and through? In this guide, we\'ll look at these two character types, what they are, how they differ and how to use them in your writing to strengthen your stories and engage your readers.  What Is An Anti-Hero? The definition of an anti-hero is somebody who lacks the virtues and traits of a traditional hero, such as courage and confidence. They can be morally ambiguous in their thinking and actions. However, when it comes to the anti-hero, the audience is rooting for them anyway. That\'s because they do the right thing, but maybe not for the right reasons. They have good intentions, but how they arrive at their conclusion or results can be questionable. An anti-hero typically lacks some of the attributes conventionally associated with traditional heroes. There are several anti-heroes in books, films and TV. Tony Montana in Scarface is an iconic character who ticks all the boxes of a classic anti-hero. Initially, he\'s the good guy, but he develops less than heroic traits throughout the film, as crime and drugs see him descend into a whirlwind of violence and greed. Despite this, he\'s still a character the audience can get behind because he does immoral things for moral reasons (his motivation is strong: getting his family out of poverty). Still, his life of crime escalates his downfall. Al Pacino\'s portrayal of Michael Corleone in The Godfather is another excellent example of an anti-hero. The film is widely regarded as one of cinema\'s greatest masterpieces, thanks to the protagonist\'s gripping character arc and his journey through the world of organised crime. It\'s a superb example of how the \"bad guy\" can be the hero.  Types Of Anti-Heroes One of the most important aspects to bear in mind when writing an anti-hero is that they\'re typically flawed but are usually engaged in doing good. So, now that we\'ve looked at what an anti-hero is and some examples of famous anti-heroes, let\'s explore the traits and characteristics that make up the different types of anti-heroes.  The Corrupt Protagonist Example of the corrupt protagonist: Thomas Shelby, Peaky BlindersA corrupt protagonist will typically act out of self-interest and might be obsessed with motivations such as power, wealth and fame. For the reader to understand and sympathise with this type of anti-hero, the reasons for their corruption must be clear and logical. Another example is Walter White in Breaking Bad. He\'s a normal guy with a normal life at the start of the series - but his obsession with money and power, instigated by his cancer diagnosis, leads to his downward spiral. The Classical Anti-Hero Example of the classical anti-hero: Frodo Baggins, Lord of The Rings.  A traditional hero is confident and intelligent, with few flaws and weaknesses. Therefore, the classical anti-hero is the opposite and is plagued by self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Readers enjoy the complexity that comes with a layered character who is flawed and conflicted. Traditionally, the story arc will follow the classical anti-hero conquering their fears and coming to terms with themselves and their faults to fight and conquer whatever is threatening them. The Pragmatic Anti-Hero Example of the pragmatic anti-hero: Harry Potter This type of anti-hero recognises their role in the greater good, and they see everything through a \'big picture\' viewpoint. For example, suppose the story means this pragmatic anti-hero must kill or sacrifice other characters. In that case, typically, this anti-hero will recognise that it must be done so that they can achieve the higher goal. For example, in Harry Potter\'s pursuit of Voldemort, he carries out actions that would be considered wrong (such as using curses) to ensure Voldemort\'s ultimate demise that\'s for the greater good. The Unscrupulous Hero Example of the unscrupulous hero: Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean  Heroes in this category have good intentions, and they\'re morally good. However, they don\'t care how much collateral damage they cause when they fight to achieve their goals. If your hero is unscrupulous, they\'ll be motivated by revenge and will typically be distrusting. Jack Sparrow is a great example of this as he\'s ultimately fighting on the good side.  Hero In Name Only Example of a hero in name only: Dexter Morgan, Dexter These protagonists tiptoe along the line of a hero and a villain. The reader will still be on their side and root for them, but they won\'t necessarily agree with all their actions and decisions. These characters are on the side of good, but they\'re not entirely good themselves.  What Is A Villain? The best definition of a villain is simple: a villain is a character opposite of a hero. A villain\'s role in a story is vital, and every villain must be compelling enough to be believable while holding a reader\'s interest. A villain is an antagonist who will place obstacles in the protagonist\'s way and drive forward the story. Creating a great villain is just as important as creating a great hero – and the best villains help define and drive the character arc of the story\'s hero. Writing a good villain means examining different villain ideas and villain traits to see which type of character fits into your story.  What Makes A Great Villain? There are some key characteristics that you can use to create a villain. Arguably, the most important is the backstory. Without it, villains feel one-dimensional and inauthentic. With it, you can create a sympathetic villain that feels real – which is exactly what you want. A villain\'s background will ultimately explain their motivations and help a reader sympathise with them. It will demonstrate why they act the way they do due to past experiences and situations that they\'ve been exposed to. Even better, if a villain backstory is connected to the hero, the story and character arcs are even more compelling for readers. The perfect example of this, and the relationship between a hero you\'re rooting for and an engaging villain, is Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. They\'re connected through a shared backstory when Voldemort murdered Harry\'s parents. But they\'re also physically connected; Harry\'s scar on his forehead serves to remind both the characters (and the readers) about their connection throughout the story.  But how to write a good villain? It\'s important to remember that a great villain character design should include some likeable qualities. They can\'t be bad through and through because a reader needs to understand them and even empathise with them to an extent. Typical characteristics of a villain include them being intelligent, capable, persuasive, proud and deceitful. They might occasionally reveal aspects of their personality that are good and perhaps even kind, but creating a villain ultimately means creating a ruthless character at their core.  Anti-Hero Vs Villain To distinguish between an anti-hero and a villain, there are certain elements to look at. The first is motive. Villains are typically motivated by something dark and even evil. Their ultimate motivations are not sympathetic as they will usually involve the protagonist\'s demise (even though a villain\'s backstory might encourage empathy from a reader). However, an anti-hero\'s motivations are sympathetic. A reader might not agree with why they\'re doing what they\'re doing, but they will understand and sympathise with their reasons why – for example, revenge and vengeance. The second characteristic is big picture balance. What would the world look like if the anti-hero won? And what would it look like if the villain won? The hero will ultimately restore balance and normality, with good prevailing. In contrast, the villain\'s victory would see the complete opposite. It\'s understandable that the lines might blur, as both types of character can be morally ambiguous. But you can readdress the balance by keeping in mind who the audience will naturally sympathise with – the anti-hero who\'s the underdog with redeeming qualities, rather than the villain who may encourage a little sympathy but ultimately reveals themselves to be purely acting in their own interests or against the protagonist. A typical character arc of the anti-hero is that they grow into becoming a better person, but a villain will go in the opposite way.  What Is An Anti-Villain? While we\'ve explored anti-heroes and villains and how they\'re connected, it\'s worthwhile looking at another type of character: anti-villain. An anti-villain is somebody who isn\'t completely evil (unlike a typical villain). They\'re much more complex, and their actions don\'t necessarily have to be particularly wicked.  Types Of Anti-Villains Now that we\'ve looked at what an anti-villain is, let\'s explore the traits and characteristics that make up the different types of anti-villains. The Sympathetic Anti-Villain Example of the sympathetic anti-villain: Benjamin Barker, Sweeney Todd The sympathetic anti-villain is a character that the readers feel sorry for, and if some of their actions weren\'t so villainous, the readers might even root for them. The character\'s backstory is key here, as it must garner sympathy from the reader and tug on the heartstrings. It must reveal that the anti-villain is acting the way they do due to past circumstances outside of their control and because they don\'t see any other options open to them. The Well-Meaning Anti-Villain Example of the well-meaning anti-villain: Inspector Javert, Les Miserables The reader can see that this character\'s heart is in the right place, but they take things a step too far in pursuit of their goal. They are driven by what they deem is the \"greater good\" and will stop at nothing to reach their goals, making them ruthless and morally questionable. Ultimately, the character is making the situation worse, but they might not even be aware of it because they\'re too focused on what they think is right and wrong – thinking purely in black and white, with no room for a grey area.  The Situational Anti-Villain Example of the situational anti-villain: Carrie White, in Stephen King\'s Carrie This character might find themselves in a set of circumstances that set them against the protagonist. Or against themselves if they are the protagonist. For example, they might have started as a good person, but they\'ve come up against something that has pushed them to the brink of their limits, and now they\'re out for revenge. Or they might be simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The reader will understand that their acts and motivations could be justified, but they won\'t get away with it.  Choosing Between Your Anti-Hero And Your Villain There are some great characteristics and traits that can create compelling anti-heroes, villains, and anti-villains. Ultimately, the anti-hero does the right thing, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Whereas the anti-villain does the wrong thing, but their reasons are often understandable. And the villain is there to make life hard for your protagonist every step of the way. By incorporating these strong character types, you\'re making the story even more interesting for the reader.  For more writing support visit our blog or join Jericho Writers - the world’s leading writing community. With our membership you get access to resources including 100+ hours of video content and masterclasses, live online events with top authors, one to one with agents and publishers, as well as editorial and mentoring support. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Character motivation: All you need to know

You may be asking yourself \'what does character motivation mean, and why do I need it?\' Well, this article will answer all your burning questions, and help you in developing your own well-rounded and interesting characters. What Is Character Motivation? Character motivation and plot are very tightly linked. They are the Little and Large of writing fiction. A strong character will have a clear motivation, which will generate the plot. In J R R Tolkien’s fantasy novel Lord of the Rings, the hobbit Frodo needs to destroy the Ring of Power to save Middle Earth. In Daphne du Maurier’s psychological thriller Don’t Look Now, a husband needs to protect his family from what he considers are sinister forces. Ideally speaking, the character’s development will be linked very closely to the points in the plot: each stage will have an effect on the character; but motivation will always push the character towards achieving a goal.    So, what is character motivation in literature and how does it effect the reader experience? Motivation is the force which pulls the reader through the story, as it creates a sense of empathy with the character. If a character’s motives are unclear or repellent, then it can cause the reader confusion or unease. And we don’t want that. Writing fiction is in part about trying to make sense of the world around us, which means trying to understand ourselves. Is A Character’s Motivation The Same As A Goal? A character’s goal is ultimately the end result of the motivation. Think of a footballer: his goal is to win a match; his motivation is more complex, linked to ambition and to the pride in his team and to his financial success. So, what are character motivations and how to they link to their goal? Frodo’s final goal is the destruction of the ring; his motivation is to save Middle Earth. In Don’t Look Now, the goals change: initially, the protagonist, John, wants to protect his wife from what the narrator believes are sinister forces, which means that his specific goal is to remove her from their influence. Then it’s to find his wife; then it’s to reach home. But his motivation is always to make sure that his family are safe. How Does A Character’s Motivation Affect A Story’s Plot? A character’s motivation will be the major plot driver. In Homer’s Iliad, the motivation of Achilles is his anger at being dishonoured by King Agamemnon. This means that he withdraws from fighting the Trojans, which means that the Greek forces are routed. When his best friend, Patroclus, is killed, Achilles is then motivated to take revenge on the Trojans, and thus fights and kills Hector.  Motivation is important. Without it characters are limp and lifeless. Too often I see characters that are wetter than the wettest blanket. They are flat, and events happen to them, and they let things carry them along without questioning or thinking. A character must have life, and motivation is partly what brings it. It’s the electricity pouring into the assembled body parts of your creation. You are Victor Frankenstein: your character needs to be galvanised into life! Should Readers Relate? This is an eternal question: and the answer is, not necessarily. The general consensus is that a character must create empathy: that doesn’t necessarily mean sympathy. Our protagonists do not have to be saints: too much of that, and your reader will fling the book aside in disbelief. But on the other hand, if they are too cruel or unhinged, then the reader can be disgusted.  An excellent example of an artful, successful and complex character is Humbert Humbert, the hero of Nabokov’s Lolita: he’s a murderous child molestor. His voice is exceptionally compelling: but we do not need to like him. The key is to create characters that aren’t cliches. So we are instead fascinated by his language and his style, seduced by him as much as we are revolted by his desires.  (If you want to know more about writing villains, then read this.) How Do You Determine A Character’s Motivation? A character’s determination is determined by what he or she wants. When you’re writing, you will develop your own process, but it’s a good idea to begin with your setting. A setting will produce a character: a general on a spaceship hurtling towards unknown planets will want very different things from a housewife on a farm in Wyoming.  It’s a good idea to test your characters. Put them into normal situations and see what they do; then introduce an element of surprise. How does your character react? That will help you to understand what motivates them. Need and necessity are two very powerful things that produce the friction and the energy for a good story. Powerful motivations include a desire to survive; to save or to protect, or to change things for the good.  You then need to decide what your character’s goal is in relation to the plot. This is very much determined by genre: the rational motivation of a detective is to find the murderer, so his goals will be step by step movements to uncover evidence against him; the motivation of Humbert Humbert is to avoid detection and to seduce Lolita, so his goals change as he travels across America. The former is a rational motivation; the latter is more conflicting and complicated.  How Do You Write A Powerful Character? There are many techniques to develop a powerful character, and as you continue to write, you will find that you will hone your own. Different things work for different people. Some writers like to create little biographies or dossiers for each character, detailing every aspect of their life from cheese preference to first sexual encounter to number of moles on their cheek. Others prefer to go with the flow and allow the story to shape the characters.  Whichever way you choose, a character must have fully formed motivation. Ged, in Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, is motivated to find a dark shadow that he himself has released; as it’s also a part of himself, the novel becomes an exploration of psychology and a movement towards a mending of a fractured psyche.  In a T C Boyle short story, The Lie, two middle class American teenagers fall in love; the girl becomes pregnant. The lovers don’t want the baby to disrupt their young lives; and so, they fall into a pattern of deception that has a tragic, terrifying consequence. Their motivation is to get through college and become successful adults; but their goal is to do so by hiding a pregnancy. And thus the complexities of character are born: we empathise with them, but we are horrified by their actions.  When all else fails, put your character in a pub, and see what he or she does. Do they go to the bar and ask for a drink? Or do they sit by the side, nervously scanning the room for a friend? You can then draw out the more general motivation. And maybe treat yourself to a glass of wine as well. Your motivation: relaxation; your goal: finish the wine. So, there we have it, a full breakdown of character motivations. Have we missed anything? Anything else you’d like to add? Head on over to the Jericho Townhouse and let us know what you think.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.
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