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:
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!
The Dos and Don'ts of Writing Characters with Special Powers - Guest Post on Tamara Reuveni's Blog
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