Lessons from the Monster

Lessons from the Monster: Character Development

It’s time for another lesson on what not to do, ghastly mistakes courtesy of myself and The Monster. For anyone who has not already heard me bemoaning it, The Monster is a half million word long catastrophe of a novel, with which I’m fairly sure I made every mistake in the book of mistakes while writing.

Today’s topic? Character development.

Normally, I come up with ideas for these posts from flipping through my bound copies of the Angel Saga books, but this one came from the novel I’m critiquing.

There are exceptions to every rule, but fictional characters need development. In some occasions, that development is the whole story (think Ebenezer Scrooge). In many cases you’ll find the MC begins with some sort of flaw hindering them from accomplishing their goals, and throughout the progression of the novel they’ll overcome that flaw.

In this way, you can begin a novel with a less than perfect character, but the reader knows that throughout the book they’ll learn some hard lessons and become a better person.

I’m two thirds of the way through the novel I’m critiquing, and the crabby, ungrateful, arrogant, paranoid, and harsh MC has yet to change or even admit he has serious issues. I don’t like him. At all. He makes me want to vomit. The only reason I didn’t give up on the book within the first chapter was because I was critiquing it, not reading it for enjoyment.

You can see why character development is important.

I have much to teach you on how not to do it, so let’s dive in!

Sacred Promise

I followed her gaze, my pounding heart recognizing the shadow leaning against the door before it fully registered in my head. My mouth went dry. I pushed myself up on my elbows, knowing my apprehension was apparent on my face even in the darkness. He saw everything.

“You don’t have to be afraid of me, Angel.”

Clearly, Angel is afraid of him. Given their history, I can’t blame her. It’s a debilitating fear that she’s carried with her for years, and she doesn’t get over it quickly.

At times, it’s understandable. Other times, it’s super annoying, and you kind of want the smack the girl for refusing to stand up for herself.

Lesson learned: Yeah, people have flaws. But don’t make the flaws so annoying or long-lasting that you want to kill the character before the end of the book/series.

The Promise Child

“I despise you,” Rihanna snarled.

“How interesting.”

She looked like she wanted to lunge at him, despite having barely half his fighting skills. Her fists were clenched and every taut muscle in her back was visible through her t-shirt.

Rihanna Ahara is a character who, up until her death and most of afterwards, remains absolutely sedate. You know when you’re so caught up in your villain and your red herrings and your MC that you forget to make your MC’s best friend interesting? That’s what happened to Rihanna.

In the beginning of the series, Rihanna is a troubled kid from a bad home, fiercely loyal to Angel, and a rebel without a cause.

At the end of the series, Rihanna is a trouble kid from a bad home, fiercely loyal to Angel, and a rebel without a cause. She never changes. She never finds a cause. She never deals with her issues.

Lesson learned: All characters need to have goals, and whether they get closer to achieving those goals or screw up and move farther away, there needs to be some sort of emotional or mental movement on his/her part. Except in certain cases, nobody should stay the same through the entire length of the book.

The Angel Virus

My humble abode was an apartment in a high rise within walking distance of Channing & Williams. My landlord thought I was a twenty-one year old Harvard graduate who ran computer diagnostics at a security firm up the street. The computer diagnostics part was true. But my overall description would better be described as a nineteen-year-old federal law breaker, running from half a dozen different people who intended to kill me.

In book six, aka the last book, Angel turns over a new leaf in her life. It would take a long time explain the whole leaf and how she turns it over, but suffice to say this: I had a big idea for a plot thread in this book. It was the number one subplot, and it was an inevitable turn in her development, given her life.

But just before it was about to really be big… it fizzled and died.

It was as if I lost my train of thought or was distracted by a shiny new subplot. Just like that, the direction of the plot swerved and went off in a different direction.

Lesson learned: Once you have a character’s development headed down a certain path, don’t change it right before the culmination of everything.

And there you have it! A random new post on the Lessons from the Monster series that I hope you enjoy.


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