Human beings are made up of many parts, both psychological and physical. We are formed by genetics and circumstance and grow into the person we see in the mirror each day.
Along the way, we develop a variety of character traits. We may be quirky, angry, funny, gregarious, or reclusive, but one or some of these will be more dominant than the others. (Read 350 Character Traits)
We can use this as a powerful tool when we create a character. If our protagonist’s most predictable trait is unpredictability, we can change his or her story by flipping this trait. Turn him or her into the most dependable, boring person and see what happens.
A great example of this can be found in the recent Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver. Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but a devastating accident causes an icy rift between the two sisters. Beautiful, daring Dara has been left scarred, angry and isolated. The responsible sister, Nick, is now erratic, filled with self-loathing, and blames herself for her sister’s devastating injuries. Oliver shows how these changes affect the choices the sisters make and how they upset everybody’s equilibrium.
You will know which trait is most dominant in your own characters. If you are unsure, I have included some of the most powerful qualities (both negative and positive) that make characters interesting below:
- Desire for revenge
As an author you could turn any of these around to cause a plot, move a plot forward, or end a story. If your character is a noble sort, turn him into a rogue. If he is courageous, make him fearful. If he is highly original in the way he dresses, put him in blue jeans and a t-shirt.
Changing a character’s dominant trait makes him or her even more interesting. Every other character will want to know why. And so will we.