As much as we all, readers and writers, love unique characters, sometimes, it seems like there’s only so many kinds of people to choose fro...

Thoughtful Thursdays: Two Charries, One Core

As much as we all, readers and writers, love unique characters, sometimes, it seems like there’s only so many kinds of people to choose from. You have the strong, all-American, “Chosen one,” (with a few inner struggles for good measure); and his girlfriend who’s either a fairly useless damsel-in-distress or (ideally) the strong, sarcastic type. There’s the villain, either a “MWAHAHA” as my siblings used to call bad guys who are evil for the sake of evil; or a genuine antagonist, who has a specific method to his madness and—if we’re lucky—some horrible backstory that makes him just human enough to be liked. There’s the Old Mentor, the Rakish Rogue, the Jaunty Trickster... and on and on and on we could go.

With those few defined categories, it can be difficult (at least for me) to come up with a character no one’s ever seen before. I noticed this especially when I realized that Viliam Pembroke (from my dystopian, Becoming Brave) and Kemp Jones (from my teen spy thriller, What’s Real) were the exact same people.
Let me explain.

Both of them are oldest in their families, both have shy, baby brothers with disabilities, and both love said baby brothers with all their being; they’re both slightly psychopathic, both handy with a gun, and both can mask/suppress their feelings on command. I mean, literally, these boys are even the same age. At their cores, both Kemp and Vil are guardians; both Kemp and Vil are fighters.

If I remember correctly, my immediate reaction was (and no, this will not make sense) “oh, that’s kinda interesting” but directly after, “OH MY GOUACHE, AM I COMPLETELY INCAPABLE OF COMING UP WITH UNIQUE CHARACTERS??? HAVE I ALREADY EXHAUSTED MY CREATIVITY???!!! AM I A FREAKING FAILURE???!!”
Thanks a lot, Doctor
But a few seconds later, I realized that Kemp and Vil are also vastly different: Kemp lives in 2015, in a suburb in the northern USA; Vil lives in a dystopian land called Arbitrium years and years in the future. Kemp is a weapons specialist on a spy team; Vil, though capable of fighting when necessary, is actually studying to be a scientist. Kemp has never in the story cracked a full smile; while Vil’s serious when he needs to be, his grin is a recurring guest in almost every chapter. Kemp’s a soldier; he follows his commander’s orders to the letter, and doesn’t question them unless she asks for his opinion. Vil’s a vigilante; he fights for what he believes in and he does what he’s told only when it serves his own purposes. Kemp values his family immensely, but he also values logic and following orders; he wouldn't put his siblings in danger, but sometimes, they do take the back burner. To Vil, nothing matters more than Cecil, and he will break every rule imaginable, defy the very laws of the universe if he can, if it’ll to keep his brother safe.

I could go on about their differences (Kemp's father taught him everything he knows, whereas Vil's father disappeared when he was young. Vil has only Cecil to deal with, while Kemp has twin seven-year-olds), but I figure I should get to the point of this little spiel: in my opinion, there are only so many character cores to be used. But by building on those cores, one flipped detail at a time, you can develop all-new characters with completely different personalities, even though, at their core, they’re still the same. Just tweak a few personality traits, family members, time periods if you want to, and the important things about the characterstheir families and their valueshardly resemble each other anymore.

There are only so many characters, but if you adjust a few defining details, the things that really show through beyond the core, it'll make all the difference.

Do you agree with my assessment? Disagree? Also, have you noticed anything like this (in your stories or in others)? See you in the comments!

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  1. It's definitely interesting to see what the same characters do in different situations, like your character has. I think my characters often resemble each other because I'm the one who writes them, but that's because I care about those particular themes. I suppose it depends on each writer!

    1. *nods* Definitely does. And yeah, haha, I guess that's part of it. Maybe I'm just partial to that kind of character.

  2. I agree with Heather - an author will usually tend towards certain cores, be it because they identify with them or they're just good at writing them, but the character's make themselves unique. I tend to have very different mains, but similar core side characters. I really liked this post. People get discouraged because they think everything has been done. And it has. But things become stereotypes for a reason; readers like it. It's not a matter of avoiding stereotypes, or in this case cores. You just need to twist and tweak it enough to make it yours.

    1. Cool! And thanks!
      Agreed to all of the above, haha. Couldn't have said it better myself. :)

  3. This is interesting. I haven't thought about it like this. I have some of these that are similar in core, but different in other aspects. Good points!

    1. Glad I could show you a new perspective! :)


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