Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How to Deal With a Crush (on your own character)

Hopefully, you think your character is amazing.  Otherwise, writing a story starring that character wouldn't be very much fun.  But that's not exactly what I'm talking about in the above title.

In my fairy tale twist, Peter Pan is an important character.  I love that I created my own version of the boy who doesn't grow up, and I think he's AWESOME.  I love him so, so, sooooo much!  Unfortunately, this became a little bit of a problem, and I'll eventually need to tackle said problem in editing (but more on that in my next update).

You see, one of my fellow writer/reader friends, who was reading the first draft as I wrote it, mentioned to me that it was kind of obvious how infatuated I was with my own darling character.  Looking back at his actions and dialogue, I quickly realized what she meant.  I was bringing Peter's awesomeness into the open too much, sugarcoating everything he did, practically whacking the reader on the head with his sheer amazingness.  (This is dramatic and probably exaggerated, and my friend will deny that it's that bad.  But it really is an issue.)  I'd like to take a moment to thank my friend, because after she pointed it out, I was able to tone down a little bit, pushing aside what I thought of him and focusing on just him.  Thankfully, he came out much better toward the end of the draft, which means I'll have less of it to worry about once I get to that part of editing.  Thanks, friend! :D

Do you have an infatuation similar to mine that perhaps may pose a similar problem?  It might just be me, but in case I'm not the only one, take a good look at your manuscript with these couple questions in mind.

1.  Do you keep mentioning their twinkly eyes, their wind-rustled hair, their dazzling smile, or any other give-away descriptions?

These could very well be the most obvious signs of a crush.  It's going to be especially hard getting it just right with Peter Pan, seeing as he's a legend and all.  His stories positively pelt him with charisma.  Whenever he returns, everyone is expecting him to have the twinkly eyes, wind-rustled hair, dazzling smile, and so forth that his old stories speak of.

Your character shouldn't have a perfect outward appearance, no matter that all crushes tends to look that perfect in the eyes of the person with the crush.  Try to focus on your character's traits rather than their outward appearance, and if you have a romantic interest in your story, be especially careful.  A few "good looks" descriptions are wonderful, but if you don't watch yourself, you may get carried away.  I should know.

2.  How charismatic are they?

This is where I tripped up the most.  Charisma.  Peter is definitely a professional charmer, but I can't have him too charming because that's unrealistic and annoying.  I mean, look around you.  No one is completely and perfectly attractive.  And besides, readers appreciate flaws.

You know what I like?  A sense of humor, goofiness that doesn't stretch so far as immaturity, and preferably excellent swordsmanship.  Peter Pan has all of that, but I layered it on way too thickly.  There wasn't a single serious bone in his body, and as a result, he was laughing quite a lot.  Pinpoint the qualities you love in that "one special character" and make sure you aren't exaggerating them.  Weave in those beloved traits; don't pile them on.

A smart reader such as my aforementioned friend will be able to pick up on an author's love for their character if it's too obvious.  Let the characters be themselves so that your readers can form their own opinions.  They want to see the story through the characters' eyes, not the author's.  Does this make any sense?

So tell me - from what you've learned of him in this post, what do you think of my Peter Pan?  And have you ever had this problem, or a similar one?  I feel like it's just me, but who knows?  Maybe you and I are kindred spirits!

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