Something I consider while plotting is the concept of love and the concept of hate, how these emotions are processed and expressed by different personalities and the layers that can represent the inherent symbolism of the story’s thematic relation with these concepts.
The importance of Love & Hate pervades almost every aspect of a grand tales in fiction from the plot’s tension points to the characters that people resonate with. In every layer of a story, love has a place and hate can be found.
Authors can make bold (or tired) statements about these concepts through the meta-language of their stories. They can communicate with people they’ve never met and express their understanding. Those readers, in turn, can internalize that understanding and compile it with their own logic to explore new perspectives or even strengthen old perspectives.
Nothing illustrates this more than with characters.
Being capable of making people care about a story’s characters is an often discussed topic amongst the writing community, especially when it comes to the protagonist.
But it’s much more than whether a reader likes the protagonist. As a writer, I don’t guide a reader towards either loving or hating a character through narrative unless it has something to do with the POV being used. Also, I have no intention to force a reader to care about a character.
Instead, I treat my characters as a mixture of symbolic concepts and observant realism. This is how I develop them. Taking note of the interplay between the characters helps too, allowing dynamics to be born through interaction. I don’t tend to use strict role definitions such as Romantic Interest, Antagonist, Sidekick, etc. though I have if it helps develop further depth. Eventually, however, I discard these role titles.
Making people care about every character seems like an impossible goal, yet it is a worthy challenge for a writer to strive for.
When it comes to characters, the layers of love and hate are ever-present.
If you’re an author, and wonder about how this applies to a cast of your characters, ask yourself the following questions;
- What does my character think about love? about hate? What do they believe?
- How do they express love? How do they express hate? – Through actions? Through words?
- Are they in love? Has love hurt them? Healed them? Do they hate someone or something? Do they love and hate something/someone simultaneously? How and why?
- Do they spend most of their time feeling sensations of love? Or vice-versa?
- How often does the narrative portray this depth of the character’s relation with love/hate?
Go beyond and work upwards through layers to reach the thematic tone with these other questions that are more bent on world-building…
- As the author, do I want to focus on the character’s thoughts more or do I want to focus on the character’s actions?
- How is love treated in the culture surrounding the character? How is hate? How is [love/hate] treated outside the culture, but within the world? How about within the character’s family?
- Does hate justify immoral actions within the world’s culture? Does love justify immoral actions?
- Does hate destroy or does it create? How about love?
Remember, this isn’t the metalevel about our own world, but it is about the world that you are creating as a fictional writer. It is important to consider things like this, to get a firm grasp on what your universe is and how more stories and more characters can be built from it.
Now, if your world does resemble our own cultural world, that is okay! It’s just an understanding to be had and to consider either way.
For these purposes, love and hate is a multidimensional spectrum in which there are infinite combinations. In the infinity of possibilities, a character represents those unique combinations. Let your characters be individuals! Let them have different views and reactions towards the subjective qualities of love and hate. Let those views clash and intertwine and dance across the scenes through dialogue, action, narrative, and inevitably, the course-changing decisions they will probably make within the story.
For me, personally, I prefer for readers to feel passionate about the characters. It doesn’t so much matter that they like the protagonist or hate the antagonist, as long as they FEEL something one way or the other. One of the worst things when it comes to a reader’s reaction to character development (and this is how the statement of ‘make them care’ is true) is apathy. You want them to feel that power of love and hate radiating from the words you write, resonating and interacting with their own feelings about those concepts.
Feel free to comment below. This discussion is something that I’m still thinking through, myself, and I kind of skimmed the surface with this post, but hopefully it will inspire some of ya other creatives to further explore your own characters and the worlds they exist in.
Welcome to 2016~