Friday, April 8, 2016

8 Different Kinds of Strengths to Give Your Characters


What do you picture when you think of strength? A buff guy at the gym? A single mom working hard to raise her children? A group of people standing up for their beliefs? We all have our different ideas of what strength is, probably because there are so many different kinds.

I think this is something that is important for authors to keep in mind when crafting characters. Writers often have a specific kind of strength that they prefer, whether that’s because it’s the kind of strength they admire, the kind that is easiest to write about, or the kind that is currently trending in popular books. This can lead to stories that have characters with very similar personalities and emotional responses.

Having characters with similar strengths and weaknesses can hurt a story because it leads to monotony and flat, rushed-feeling characters. So here is a list of the different kinds of character strengths for you to keep in mind while writing. It will help make your characters deeper and more diverse:
1. Warrior Strength. Also known as badassery. These are the kind of characters who won’t let anything stand in their way. They tend to be fairly stoic, physically strong, and mentally hardened. The gates of hell are filled with the screams for their victims. Surrounding characters either help them or get out of their way. You know that they can push through practically any situation simply because they've made up their minds to do so....And they'll look cool while doing it. It's impressive and inspiring. However, "coolness" is generally not enough to give your character a deep personality. Why is your character so strong? Was she always like this or did something happen? What is he/she fighting so fiercely for? Give him a reason. Examples of well-done warrior strength: Jason Bourne, Ottway (The Grey), Ripley, Maximus, Batman, Break (Pandora Hearts), Kvothe.
2. Moral Strength. This character knows what she believes in and does not allow circumstances to change her personality. Despite how popular antiheroes are becoming, readers do still love characters with a good set of morals. There's something nice about always knowing where a person stands, and it's always inspiring when an otherwise normal person has the strength to stand up for what they believe in and simply do the right thing. Examples of characters with great moral strength: Captain America, Atticus Finch, Murdoch (Murdoch Mysteries), Starbuck (Moby Dick), Jane Eyre, Superman, Faramir, Elinor Dashwood. For a more extensive list put together by my amazing followers, click here.
3. Quiet Strength.
This kind of strength is not flashy. Usually, characters with quiet strength aren't very noticeable at first. You don't expect much out of them, but then something happens and you realize that this character is probably stronger than everyone else combined. They may not be physically strong, but they have other skills or great mental fortitude. They either underestimate their own strength, or are so confident in their abilities that they don't feel the need to be recognized by anybody else. Examples: Samwise Gamgee, Shane, Marie-Laure (All the Light We Cannot See), Hiccup, Cinderella (the 2015 version).
4. Defiant Strength.
This character draws strength from anger and the need to prove something. Somebody told him that he couldn't achieve a goal, often because of his social status, race, physical/mental abilities, or past, and he's out to prove that person wrong. Sometimes, he is trying to prove something to himself rather than somebody else. This is a really interesting kind of strength and makes for a very complex character. Examples would be: Trip (Glory), Rocket Raccoon, Eowyn, Thorin, Celia Foote.
5. Fighter strength.
This is very different from warrior strength. Why? Because characters with this kind of strength don't always succeed. They're normal people without any special skills who are thrust into bad situations. But they suck it up and keep going anyway because they're fighters and that's what they do. They try, they fail, but they get back up and try again because they could do this all day. Examples: Papillion, Mark Watney, Pollyanna, Louie Zamperini, Mattie Ross, Frodo.
6. Unstable Strength.
This character is very driven and is good at whatever particular field they are in. However, they are slightly unhinged mentally. They may be afraid of their instability and what it might cause them to do, or they might embrace their insanity and use it as a tool. Strong in many different ways, yet afraid of their own minds, this is typically the kind of strength given to a villain, a struggling hero, or a revenge-driven character. Examples: the Joker, Harvey Dent, Green Arrow, Loki, Katniss.
7. Unknown Strength. Often reserved for characters who are put-upon and demeaned. When this character looks at himself, he sees only weaknesses. When other characters look at him, they see an amazing person who has endured a lot and yet still keeps going. But, when they attempt to point this out to him, he doesn't really believe that that's anything special. Usually, by the end of the story, these characters come to realize their value. Examples: Kousei (Your Lie in April), Neville Longbottom, Aelliana Caylon (Scout's Progress).
8. Pillar Strength. No matter what is going on, this character is there to lean on. She's the loyal, steadfast friend who will tell it like it is and keep everyone from going crazy. However, because this character is so busy being strong for other people, she often feels isolated because nobody can help her with her own problems. Examples: Beth (Little Women), Alfred Pennyworth, Newt.

See how many different kinds of strength there are? I only listed 8 main ones, but there are many others. Fascinating, isn't it? I often use the above list in my own writing as a way to craft my character's personalities and avoid giving cliche or repetitive attributes. It's a lot of fun and has worked out very well for me, so I wanted to share.

Remember, a character can possess several different kinds of these strengths at once, or their character arc might involve them swinging from one to another. Try mixing, matching, and adding in other kinds of strengths.

What do you think? What kind of strengths do you tend to give your characters? Did I miss any? Please leave a comment below, and don't forget to tell me about some of your favorite characters and the kind of strengths that they possess!

Related articles:
The Dos and Don'ts of Writing Characters with Special Powers - Guest Post on Tamara Reuveni's Blog
Writing Strong Female Characters: What You're Doing Wrong
Writing Awesome Male Characters: What You're Doing Wrong

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16 comments:

  1. THIS IS SUCH A HELPFUL ARTICLE OH MY GOSH. My series has a lot of main characters, so I'll definitely be using this!

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

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    1. Yay! I'm so happy it helped you, Ellie. Happy writing!

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    2. Tks very much for your post.

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  2. I'm actually surprised that you put Celia Foote there! Glad someone noticed her!

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    1. Yes, Celia Foote is a favorite of mine. She has so much inner strength and her character was just well done in so many different areas. Glad you like her, too! She tends to be overlooked. =)

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  3. Awesome post! I'm saving it to use for future reference. :) I have another character that I think fits in "quiet strength": Rory Williams from Doctor Who. I think that's one of my favourite types of strength, personally, but these are all so cool and I can't wait to use some of the ones I haven't yet! :D

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    1. Ah. I've only watched a few Doctor Who episodes, but I did notice that about Rory. Glad you found some other types of strengths to try! It's fun to test out different styles.

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  4. Very diverse, Hannah, I love it. I like the quiet type more than the overly done snarky type, or the in-your-face type.I favor interior strength over the physical kind. I also think that showing weakness can count as strength in specific circumstances :D

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    1. Yes, quiet strength is a favorite of mine. It takes a lot of character and a lot of inner strength. It's also admirable because it often goes unnoticed and yet people with quiet strength continue to be themselves without needing outside recognition. Very cool.

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  5. This is a really helpful list, Hannah! Thank you! I have a character in a current story that doesn't fit into any of these, so here's what strength I assigned him:
    casual confidence, easy (in a way, unknown, so wielded carelessly). He is the lusty, incidental love interest, playboy, and self-centered happy person. He doesn't understand other people's insecurities because he has none. This is both weakness and strength; he can use it as a weapon without knowing it.

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  6. Hi Hannah! I am new to your blog, and have spent two days reading every post you have...they are splendid and very informative!

    I am also a Jesus Freak, and a writer. I'm 21 years old, and live/work on a farm in Louisiana with my family.

    I'm so sorry to know of you and your family's fight with Lyme... I sincerely empathize and am praying for all of you as I type this.

    My family has a slew of health problems as well. My brother has severe Autism and Epilepsy, and my mom is awaiting results to see if her longtime painful illness has become cancer or some other disease. I have an autoimmune disease, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, that isn't fun to have as well.

    But hey, life is life, and God is still on the throne.
    As my grandfather used to say--Every Day Is A Good Day, But Some Are Better Than Others!

    I love all your book/movie/character quotes! So fun!
    I read that you really like Captain America (who doesn't!?!) And Thor and Loki (oh yes!!)
    And I recently found a amazing Christian authoress who writes fanfiction, about them, as well as Sherlock, Harry Potter, Batman, Superman, The Avengers and so on.

    As a rule, I don't like fanfiction...most of it is horrible. But this lady is amazing, her style is so right and she captures the characters exactly as they are on screen! I can't say enough in praise for her, and I wanted to share with you ! Watch Loki slowly redeem himself, you won't be sorry!

    The author's name is Alysia Rackham, and she has all of her stories on fanfiction.com
    Her stories are clean and she subtly weaves a Christian theme throughout the stories...but leaves all the excitement!
    Anyway, Hannah, thank you for this awesome blog! I have learned so much from you, and look forward to every new post!
    May The Force Be With You--Always.
    �� God Bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh, I'm sorry I just noticed I didn't leave my name on my comment! Sorry!

      I'm Emilie. :) nice to *meet* you!

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  7. Dear Hannah,
    Forgive me for cluttering up your comment board, but I realized that I made a terrible mistake the first time I posted.

    The Christian authoress who writes the fanfiction stories about Loki and the Avengers, and Star Wars,and the others...her name is *Alydia Rackham.*
    My auto-correct keyboard changed her name the first time I posted. (Face palm). Alydia Rackham is her name.
    I hope you have a great day, and I apologize again!

    Sheepishly yours, Emilie.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Hannah,
    Forgive me for cluttering up your comment board, but I realized that I made a terrible mistake the first time I posted.

    The Christian authoress who writes the fanfiction stories about Loki and the Avengers, and Star Wars,and the others...her name is *Alydia Rackham.*
    My auto-correct keyboard changed her name the first time I posted. (Face palm). Alydia Rackham is her name.
    I hope you have a great day, and I apologize again!

    Sheepishly yours, Emilie.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is such a good post!! Thank you for this!

    I think #4 is my personal favorite. And #6 can be so fascinating, and scary – if the character is a villain. O.O

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  10. Thanks for this useful information. :)

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