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Wednesday, 23 January 2019

On Character

Martin Luther King once said that he dreamed of a world where we judged people based on the content of their character, not the colour of their skin. Sadly we still have yet to enter that world. But what is character? Character is what makes us who we are inside. When I read a book or watch a movie, what grabs me the most is how well developed the characters are.

Some of the most fascinating fictional characters that come to mind: Eleanor Oliphant, Steven Stelfox, Frank Underwood, Walter White, Annie Wilkes, Richie Tozier, Tyrion Lannister, Hermione Granger, Daria Morgendorffer, Tom Ripley, Amy Dunne, Atticus Finch. I could go on. I won't.

When writers create a story, we have to create good characters. They don't necessarily have to be likeable (my novella Psycho Girl is about a narcissistic psychopath), they just have to be well-fleshed-out and engaging. Engaging enough so that we can follow them on their journey through however many pages/episodes/minutes without getting bored or disinterested.

I think the best kinds of stories are character driven; when the characters drive the narrative and are fully formed, the rest tends to follow. I am halfway through The Shining and the character development is miles better than the movie, which has little-to-no character development. Character and storytelling isn't really Kubrick's forte, he's more into the visual, which is why the only one of his films I truly love is A Clockwork Orange (although I don't mind Lolita and the first half of Full Metal Jacket). His movie of The Shining reads like a parody of the book to me, which explains why Stephen King was so pissed off (and I would have been too).

One of the millions of reasons why I (and so many across the world) love Game of Thrones is because of the characters. We like to see ourselves in people, and use them to relate to how we view the world and make sense of things. The best kinds of characters are flawed and realistic. Good people make bad decisions, bad people get themselves into trouble and don't always win. Humans are flawed and imperfect so why would we want to read/watch one-dimensional wholly evil or angelic beings?

Thinks about herself as a character in third person. Who is Zarina? Zarina is someone who loves to create; stories, poetry, songs, creative non-fiction. She plays guitar and the drum kit. She loves to read and is a big fan of Stephen King novels. She adores cats and cares for children and likes to lie in her bed watching Disney movies. She is kind and polite but can be brash and flippant and naive. She loves to swim and drink water and green tea but spurns coffee and coca-cola. She has an obsessive personality that can get overwhelming at times and causes her anxiety, but it can also be channeled wonderfully into whatever projects she sets her mind to.

Zarina could be white, black, Asian, mixed-raced, British, American, male, female, gay, straight, bisexual, poor or wealthy. None of that stuff matters. What matters is the person she is inside. What matters is the content of her character. 

Wouldn't you agree?

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I'm Zarina Macha, an author, blogger, and musician from London. I write about stuff on the internet 'cos having opinions is fun -- if you want to join the games, please note your thoughts below. All thoughts welcome, even if they're mean (just no spam links please -- can't tell you what a liability those are to remove).
I've also published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: