Friday, March 9, 2012
Complete Armor for Horse and Man
I’m a sucker for flawed heroes. Give me a man with a tortured past, a dark secret, hidden pain, a rebellious streak, or an all-consuming desire for revenge. Give me a bastard, an anti-hero, a bad boy. Oh yeah.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want my heroes to be likable. Even a bad boy bastard has to have some redeeming qualities like humor, courage, tenderness, and a moral code. He needs a belief in something and maybe a bit of hope, too.
A dark hero, by nature, is a complex creature. Something drives him; he’s bad, yet does the right thing. A dark hero has many layers if drawn correctly by his creator.
These layers are what fascinate me. In Bullies, Bastards & Bitches, Jessica Page Morrell gives a sort of hierarchy of traits that all characters have. She notes that if character-building is done well, readers will still be learning about a character right up to the last page. Her hierarchy of traits are:
Primary Traits are the foundation of the character, his personality, his disposition and approach to life.
Secondary Traits are mannerisms, tastes, tags, habits, that support the Primary Traits.
Counter/Contrasting Traits are a character’s deepest layer, the place where he’s most vulnerable.
Just like the armored knight, a hero has his outer armor that is readily recognized. In the case of the Bad Boy Hero his armor is made of those behaviors that give him his reputation. It’s not easy to get beyond his armor, but to persist is to see his vulnerabilities and to understand why he acts the way he does.
To craft a character with layers - with those primary, secondary and contrasting traits - is to create a complicated, yet believable person. Everyone has armor, everyone’s been hurt, or experienced some kind of trouble, heartache, or upheaval. Everyone.
You may not be crafting a Bad Boy or a Bitch. But I’m curious… does your character wear armor? Does he have layers of traits much like those that Morrell talks about? What does your character’s deepest layer look like?