Thursday, January 7, 2010

Creating Compelling Characters

The current issue of the New Yorker has a fascinating profile by Nick Paumgarten on Whole Food's CEO John Mackey. Mackey strikes me as a the ideal model of a compelling [complex!] character: vegan, corporate, spiritual, environmentalist, Ayn Rand fan, libertarian, voracious reader, strident op-ed writer.
Photo by Dan Winters

Character  Equation
(Credible + conflicted) = complex -  cliche = Compelling Character
Credible plus conflicted equals complex minus cliched for a grand total of Compelling Character

From my craft class handout:
Credible characters – main characters, especially—need to be complex. They need to have conflicting desires, both good and bad qualities.  These contradictory traits (also know as human traits!)— these conflicts within character-- are what Aristotle referred to as “consistent inconsistencies.”

To paraphrase Janet Burroway in Writing Fiction: “Whether [characters] are drawn from life or are pure fantasy…we must find them interesting, me must find them believable, and we must care about what happens to them.”

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