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Fixing Boring Characters [WE Master Class]

Over the years I've written, or have started, a lot of little stories. But with my inexperience I've fallen into the same trap over and over again (without realizing it most of the time), that my main characters aren't very interesting and are often flat one dimensional people. In episode 10.5 of the Writing Excuses Master Class, the crew goes over things to avoid and things to do to help fix a boring main character. Here are a few of the highlights.

Things to watch out for

  • People doing interesting things in interesting places does not make them interesting.
  • The main character can’t be an observer with others doing the action.
  • The main character must have accountability and responsibility.
  • To fix boring character don’t give them a tortured past, if it doesn’t fit, and don’t just make them quirky.
  • Adding diversity to your cast doesn’t mean the story has to be about diversity.
  • Don’t have just one thing the character wants, especially if that one thing is what they are questing for.

How to fix a boring character

  • Give the character more stake* in what is happening.
  • All actions have a “cost” and the character must be accountable to those costs.
  • There are worse things that can happen to a character than death.
  • Add flaws to the main character, give them a personal arc.
  • Adjust the sympathy, competence, proactivity scale of the character (links below).
  • A quirk doesn’t have to mean they do silly things, it means they have specific passions.

*Stakes are things a character can lose and accountability is being responsible for their actions.

Writing Exercise

Write three different scenes each with a character walking through a market place and need to do a dead drop. During the scene convey the character’s emotional state, their job, and a hobby without actually saying it. Each character should have different emotions, jobs and hobbies.

I've decided to take one of the previous story ideas (endless energy murder mystery) from the last exercise and create three characters for that story and have them interact with this specific scene.

* Adjusting Sympathy =>
* Adjusting Competence =>
* Adjusting Proactivity =>


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