Posted in 2016, Writing

What Makes a Character Strong

So I have started to rework this blog, and to do this I must start writing posts more. I have a few topics that I want to write about. Yesterday I read an article that was about strong female characters and triad syndrome. From my understanding about the subject, triad syndrome in relation to this article is when a female character looks strong and is very interesting when she is first introduced but is either pushed away from the centre by the main character (who is usually male) or is used only as a reason for the main character to go on their “quest”.

This article was very interesting. It used examples from The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2 to explain how triad syndrome is seen all too often in action movies. I know this doesn’t only happen in action movies but all the examples given were from action movies.

If you are interested in the article it can be found here.

I thought about how this relates to writing. Movies need writers to write the stories and create the characters. It is the writers who cause triad syndrome to even be in the story. In movies the action hero almost always takes the front and centre and seems to rarely be a woman. In television shows there seems to be a push towards more strong female characters such as Jessica Jones and Amberle who act as main characters. In books there has been a rise of stories such as The Throne of Glass and Divergent where the main character isn’t only female but is also in my opinion at least a strong character.

This article made me think about different characters I have seen who are strong and what exactly makes them strong. I did focus on female characters since the article is about girls and how so many writers seem to treat them. I have decided to make a list with all of the reasons that I have found. This list is unordered so none of them are more important than the others.

Here are my reasons as to what makes a character strong:

Imperfection

This would be a given. It seems that some people feel like the only thing that makes a character strong is perfection. They are wrong. When a character is imperfect they don’t have any scars, have little to no actual motivation, and no one can relate to them. Perfection in characters does nothing but give readers an unrealistic person.

A good example of this is in The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Celaena isn’t perfect. The story begins with her being brought out of slavery to enter a tournament that will decide who the kings assassin will be. She has many different sides. She isn’t just a cold blooded killer, but also a woman who enjoys buying clothes, a reader, a friend, and a person who lost their entire world in a few days. As the series goes on it becomes apparent just how broken she is and why. Everything she does has a reason and these reasons are rooted in who she is. If she were perfect I don’t think she would have any reasons for what she does other than simply being a cool character. She also would not be strong.

Has their own goals

A strong character needs their own goal because in real life everyone has something that they strive for. The goal doesn’t even have to be met. When Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter or Tris dies in Allegiant they die before they can meet their goal and so their deaths are impactful. If the goal is met it is a happy occasion and the story can end soundly.

When I say that the character must have their own goals I am saying that they can’t simply borrow their goals from another character. If for instance a character was aiming to become a warrior and the only reason they wanted to become a warrior in the first place was because they were told they can be nothing else then they do not have their own goals. Their goal is simply to please another person. In the same way if a characters goal is to displease someone it is equally as bad.

In Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Darrow tries to change the system because he sees that it is wrong. For years he had unknowingly suffered under the golden regime and when he realized the truth he was outraged. His goal was to change things for the better not to spite the golds or to make the reds proud. It was instead to make things in his world right for everyone who was suffering under this system.

Is important to the story to some extent

Lastly the character must be important to the story. The character can’t be there only to hurt the protagonist or to cheer for them. The character must take part in the entire story at large. Their importance must stay at about the same level throughout the entire story. This means that they can’t simply be surpassed by another character and be forgotten about.

So what makes a character strong?

In my opinion a strong character is well-rounded, imperfect, and has some importance to the story even if they aren’t one of the main characters. If you have any other ideas as to what makes a character strong please comment. This is only my opinion at the moment. I am sure that if I think some more I will find another reason. I am sure that these aren’t the only reasons why a character is strong and not weak.

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