I am a huge fan of the way Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ trilogy does not rely on the importance of character. This may seem like an odd introduction to a post about the importance of character, however I just wanted to iterate that I believe good books have been written, and can still be written, where this does not always apply.
If you have read A Game of Thrones or anything by Brandon Sanderson, you will know how much of an effect vivid, vibrant characters have on a story.
A Game of Thrones without it’s hugely complex characters would be boring! We need to be kept on our toes, or feel satisfied when a character does something that is in tune with what has been foreshadowed in their previous characterisation.
To use Vin as an example, from Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy, the struggle of the character is at the forefront of the story. We care deeply about Vin and what she is going through. We want her to succeed because we know her thoughts, we know her pain, and we know that she wants the best possible outcome. Watching a character like Vin succeed (or even fail), is powerful and emotional. That is what you want for your characters.
I think this is especially important in the fantasy and science fiction genres.
When you have spent so much time creating a large world in which to tell your story, you can have all the planned battles and events you want, but if the reader does not care about your characters – ‘good’ or ‘evil’ (I’ll talk about that outdated terminology in a later post), then the story will be dull.
Think about a time in history you learnt at school. When you were taught about WWI/WW2, you will have probably been taught about some people from that time who did incredible things (good and bad). These people make history feel real, otherwise it is just a story. How history affected people’s lives is what we are interested in. It is the same for a big, epic fantasy book. We need main characters who are affected by the events of the story and we need to care about them and their actions.
I stated earlier that I believe this is especially important in the fantasy and FT genres. This is because many new writers to the genre forget that their characters have to interact with the history of the world they have created, or are creating. They explore the events of the history without exploring the manipulators and the manipulated. These people are the essence of the story. Without them, you have written a history book that no one will want to read.
Let me know if you agree with what I have said above and what your thoughts on character in relation to the history of a fantasy world.
Are there any writing advice posts you would like to see in the future? I have one scheduled talking about ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ characters and a couple more ideas too, but I would love to know your thoughts!