By Heather Moore
Have you ever picked up a book and stopped reading because the character was too weak, wimpy, or just simply lame? How can we avoid this in our own writing? Please note: a flawed character is different from a wimpy character.
In Jack Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes he points out that the most interesting characters are the ones who are risk-takers (21).
So what defines a wimp? The character who won’t fight, who retreats from conflict, who is indecisive, who sits around passively, who whines . . .
Of course in real life we are surrounded by exactly that. But as Bickham says, “Fiction isn’t reality . . . it’s better.”
Recently I had someone tell me that the boyfriend of my main character made her seem wimpy. Overall her character was good, but that boyfriend-aspect had to go. He was the controlling type and she was letting him control her. So I cut him. My character had to be strong enough to not let anyone have so much control over her.
Wimpy characters slow the story. They are not action-oriented, and action is what you need to move the story. This doesn’t mean that every character has to be a character like The Rock, but he needs to be goal-motivated and active. Yes, he might be scared or intimidated, but he needs to act regardless.
The character must have a goal, large or small, and be determined to reach it. Bickham says that it’s vital that your story must have the following (23):
1. Something has changed
2. Your character is threatened
3. He vows to struggle
4. He selects a goal and starts taking action toward it.
Examine all of your characters and find where they are passive, where the story slows, where nothing happens. Your character needs to actively walk toward his goal.
As a reader, don’t you care more about a character who doesn’t sit around and wait for something to happen, a character who will not give up no matter what, or a character who will determine his own destiny by taking action?