Lessons from fictional characters
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What Writing Fictional Characters Taught Me About Real People

We might prefer them, but fictional characters aren't all there is to life.

What Writing Fictional Characters Taught Me About Real People

There's nothing quite like a good book, and in the very best, you can't help but be drawn to the characters. Maybe it's their realistic traits, or maybe it's even the parts of them that aren't so real. But whatever your favorite part, there's no denying – a lot went into creating those characters. When I first began to write fictional stories for my cousins, I found that out over time. The more I wrote – as with any skill – the more I was able to develop my characters. And by now I would venture to say that they've helped develop me, too. They've taught me so much about real people as well, and I won't ever be able to forget some of these lessons.

1. People are complicated.


This one probably goes without saying, but people have a lot of things that go into making them who they are. Internal and external conflicts, morals and ethics, and both nature and nurture all go into people's choices and actions. And in the end, even life-altering decisions can be made in a moment of weakness that doesn't truly reflect the best of someone; there's so much more than we can simply see in people!

2. The ripple effect is real.


One person's actions will always have an affect on others. And while we often acknowledge this, maybe we fail to see just how far that actually goes. In designing fictional stories, you can hinge an entire plot on one small action, even an accident. In real life, those things happen, too. Things we forget about might seriously impact others, and it just keeps on going!

3. People can't just disappear from the plot.


If you've every tried to write a story, then remove a character or merge two of them, you know it's very difficult. When you wind someone into your plot, you can't just delete their name from every page and expect the story to go as normal; there's a lot of fixing to be done, and subplots can be lost or they have to gain a new protagonist to replace the old one. If it's so complicated in print, imagine how much more so in person? Even if you lose a friend or stop talking to someone, they don't just go away, and you certainly can't remove them from memories past!

4. Protagonists are the antagonists in someone else's world...


Yes, even the "good guys" can foil the plans of others. It might be to advance their own world, so we don't pay much attention to it, but they do have negative influences on some people. We all do, whether we intend it or not. It's impossible to please everyone, so we'll always be the "bad guy" to someone.

5. ...and antagonists are the good guys in their own.


Whatever it is that an antagonist might stand for, those who support them believe in the cause. And that means those who oppose it are the antagonist in their world. They only fight for something they believe to be true, and no matter how misguided, might that be at least partially understandable?

6. Not all endings are the very end.


Of course. The last chapter, last page, last word is never where it ends. Perhaps in fiction it can go no further than the reader's imagination, but in real life, it continues just as strongly as what might be written. There always has to be a place to wrap up the plot (whether with a nice tidy bow, or in a complete mess depends on the author) but in real life, things keep changing. They don't remain in that perfect moment, they keep progressing forward. Sometimes to better endings, sometimes to new beginnings, and sometimes to tragedy. But they do continue.

7. Empathy is key!


Even if you absolutely hate a certain character, sometimes you can at least understand them or their motives; that's something that takes empathy. Sometimes it's easy enough to reason, "They're only like that because the author made them that way," and while real people have a lot more going into them than one simple author, empathy can always be applied anyway. It helps us understand that there's more to people that we know, and they don't always have control over the experiences that shaped them.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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