As writers, we’re forever creating characters. It’s kinda what we do. And you would think these characters would be grateful to us–we give them life, we give them a story and purpose, we love and nurture them and help them grow. But sometimes, this isn’t the case. Like a rebellious teenager who won’t listen to anything you say, some of them just aren’t grateful at all that you gave them life and they want to spend all their time and energy acting up. The nerve!
The truth is, not all characters are our precious babies, and I’m not just talking about the villains and bad guys. Some characters just suck. A bad character can mess up a good story, and sometimes you have to kill them or cut them. In addition to being a writer, you’re now forced to be a murderer. Congratulations!
Here are some of those wayward, pesky character types who just stomp all over our story and screw everything up, necessitating either a harsh correcting, or an untimely severing:
- The character who tries to take over. This character was just supposed to be a side character supporting the protagonist. Two chapters later, you’re telling us more about their life than about the main character. Where did the main character even go? Suddenly, the side character is hogging the spotlight and telling you this is the book you really meant to write.
- The character who won’t cooperate. Sometimes you can’t get characters into the scenes and positions you want them in. Try as you might, it’s like attempting to push a muffin through a tennis racket. They just don’t fit, they’re awkward, and there’s crumbs everywhere.
- The character who is void of personality. Despite giving this character some lovely traits, they just fall flat. Their dialog is boring. Their personality is a gaping vacuum. Why can’t you bring them to life? They’re a shuffling zombie. Maybe you should turn this into a zombie novel.
- The character with no name. Why can’t you figure out a name for this character, and why does nothing sound right when you try it out? Why do they not want a name? Can you just name a character Asshole?
- The character who chews the scenery. For some reason, every time you write this character, they’re way too dramatic, over the top, colorful, and absurd. You try to tone it down but they just return worse than before in the next scene, wearing clown shoes and shouting about fluctuations in the stock market.
- The background character who just makes themselves at home. They were supposed to be briefly in one scene and now they’re in twelve? How did this happen?
- The mystery character. You’re editing your manuscript and suddenly a character appears that you don’t remember writing. They seem awfully important and yet you can find no reference to them earlier in the story. Were you asleep when you wrote this? Was it aliens?
- The twin characters. These two characters act, talk, and even kind of look alike and you totally didn’t mean to do that. It’s hard to distinguish them. One of them needs a makeover. Time to hit Sephora.
Bad characters are everywhere…be on the lookout! They can creep into your story at any time. The worst is when a good character goes bad–it will break your heart! Have you had to deal with bad characters?
Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.