80. Crafting Characters: Strengths & Weaknesses
After another unplanned hiatus, JJ and Kelly are back once again! (We'll never be gone forever, don't worry.) This week they continue their series on characterization, this time focusing on STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES or personality traits.
Personality traits are external manifestations of a character's vulnerability.
As we've mentioned before, writing a character entails managing multiple different strands at once; it's hard to focus on just one thread when you need to look at the whole.
Skills =/= personality traits, e.g. Ginny Weasley's Bat-Bogey Hexes from Harry Potter
"Strength" vs. "weakness" is perhaps a false dichotomy when it comes to describing personality traits because every characteristic can have a "positive" manifestation or a "negative" one, e.g. someone's loyalty can manifest as protectiveness OR controlling behavior
Strengths and weaknesses are more often related than actual diametric opposites.
"Likable" characters are a trap—ABORT ABORT ABORT
This is a very subjective matter for readers; you will not be able to create a UNIVERSALLY likable character
If you load characters with "good" traits in an effort to make them appealing to everyone, they often become unrelatable
"Aspirational" characters can be flawed; failure makes characters human
Do characters need to grow and change over a series? There is not necessarily a cut and dry answer.
There are characters whose worldview changes over the course of the story (e.g. Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender)
There are characters whose convictions change the world around them (e.g. Harry Potter or Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender)
What We're Working On
Kelly is currently closed to queries but is hopeful she will be open again soon!
JJ is gearing up for Shadowsong stuff and is glad...she...likes...it...again?
What We're Reading
Love Sugar Magic by Anna Meriano
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu
The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Saga Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Off Menu Recommendations
The Last Jedi
The Penn & Teller magic show
Cirque du Soleil's Kà
What You're Saying
★★★★★ My Favorite Publishing Podcast —haley_s
I've been listening to PubCrawl for over a year and it's consistently been my favorite publishing podcast.
Kelly and JJ are knowledgeable hosts and their podcast covers the publishing industry, writing craft, and author career. I knew almost nothing about how publishing worked before this podcast, which has covered the basics—query letters (their query critique episodes are the best!) and submissions—and more technical concepts like royalties, subrights, and IP.
Their "mini-series" of episodes on archetypes, genre, and troubleshooting writing were similarly helpful. Kelly and JJ discuss writing and stories without giving directive "you must do this to succeed" advice. Instead, I feel like I'm listening to conversations with people who are just genuinely interested in thinking and talking about these concepts.
I've also loved listening to Kelly and JJ's careers advance and they share new insights about becoming an agent and a published (bestselling!) author.
Finally, they both have great taste—I've discovered so many new books, podcast, musicals, and other media from their recommendations that come at the end of every episode.
I can't recommend this podcast highly enough to someone who is interested in publishing and writing.
Thank you so much, Haley!
That’s all for this week! Next week we will be continuing our Crafting Characters series with Character Relationships. So as always if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below, send us an ask on Tumblr, or tweet using the hashtag #askpubcrawl!