Book Trends Blog

May 9, 2011

Balancing Characters by Bob Spear

When discussing character balance, there are two aspects we can consider: internal and external.

Internal Balance

Too many beginning writers make the mistake of creating heroes who are all good and villains who are all bad. This is not realistic. All people have good and bad sides to them. In fact, often the hero or protagonist and the villain or antagonist have a lot in common but have made different choices in their lives. Authors should try for personality balance in their leading characters. This helps create the conflict that is so necessary for good storytelling.

External Balance

Now we come to balance among story characters. Characters may or may not be alike in personality; however, they do need to be unlike in purpose or intent. A good example is the protagonist (the hero) versus the antagonist (the villain). The first is trying to solve a problem or accomplish a goal and the antagonist is trying to prevent those from happening. The following  compares a few archetypical character sets that the folks at Dramatica use:

These are not the only character types, but notice how they conveniently exist to create conflict when they are used in a diametrically opposed manner.

Most good stories have similar elements to these. Pick apart some of your favorite stories and try to assign these roles to different characters. Now, create your character bible for your next story or book of fiction and try to come up with at least some of these and see how well the story fleshes out.


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