In this little "how to" I plan on writing here, I will cover a couple of important aspects to making a good story great. In reference to character I think the most important are the hero, the heroine, the trickster and the bad guy. We start with
The hero can be like Superman. Noble, good, kind, heroic and willing to do the right thing all the time. Or the hero can be like Wolverine. Troubled, harsh, sometimes unreasonable, and most of the time unorthodox (at best).
Of the two, I think Wolverine is a better developed character than Superman (and I mean no offense here, as I am a fan of the man of steel).
Yes, I know that there are many stories about Superman, complex and deep, but from my (somewhat narrow) point of view (having seen the movies, Smallville, and read a few comics), Wolverine is the kind of hero I would like to write about (that and Hugh Jackman is a big influence in my sometimes sordid imagination ;-)).
The noble, pure and good hero is not very credible these days. The hero is supposed to have a past, a past that is making it harder for him to endure the present, a past that almost stops him from doing the right thing...but what makes him the hero is that he in the end makes the heroic act in spite of his past. People can relate to the hero with a flaw. People can relate to the man struggling to make the right choice. We have a writer here in Norway, and he has perfected this kind of hero. His name is Jo Nesbø, and his hero is named Harry Hole. These books are translated into most languages, and I would urge you to get a copy, they are brilliant. The first in the series is called (in Norwegian) "Flaggermusmannen" which translates to Batman, but I suspect it has another title in English. Jo Nesbø is another of my favorites. He's always around when I'm at my family's summer house. He is also a master of suspense, and he is talking with none other than Scorsese about making his books into Hollywood productions...Well worth a look, eh?
Back to the hero! It's easy enough to make the hero into this God-like creature, and if you want to you can make him indestructible and a winner in all aspects of life. But where's the fun in that?
"Kill your darlings" someone said, and I think that demonstrates the essence of making a character credible. I mean, look at J. K. Rowling's epic, Harry Potter suffers from the age of one. A hero is such due to the choices he makes. It's much more impressive making the right choice when everything suggests you could, and probably should, make the bad choice.
I have made a few realizations over the years. It isn't always easy to torment your characters. I always want the best for the good guys and I want the bad guys to get what's coming to them. But to create a credible story with credible characters you have to give them a life resembling normality, with ups and downs, even when writing a fantasy. The plot can hold limits set only by your imagination, but to really get under people's skin as a writer you have to make the suffering, the joys, the love, the hate, the hunger, the emotional peaks, the emotional abyss, all this (and more) has to be presented realistically.
Your hero should be a compound person. He might be searching for himself, but he should be in touch with, or at least capable (after going through what ever he has to go through to find his true self) to get in touch with, the entire spectra of emotions. He also might make some serious mistakes on the way, and sometimes he might not end up with that happy ending after all. I'll cover genres as we get deeper into the material!
I am aware that I'm barely scratching the surface of writing techniques, and there are many things to say on this particular subject. I'll try to cover as much as I can during these entries. I also welcome any comments you might have, as I would also like to improve my writing :-)
To close this, I would like to add an important point: The most important thing is to write. Don't pay too much attention to these how-to-entries as they might stop you from writing with your heart. I usually write my stories (almost in a frenzy sometimes), beginning to finish, and only when I'm finished I start to look at the technicalities. So these are points you can check out after having written the story.
The best Christmas to you all!