Good Characters? *yawn*

There was a story I wanted to find long before I became a writer.

Why writers write is a convoluted story no matter how good we get at answering the question with brevity for interviews. It isn’t as easy as a one sentence “there was a story I wanted to tell!”

For me, one of the initial steps that lead me to become a writer was because I noticed something missing in all of the fantasy novels I read as a teenager.

The evil characters were fascinating, complex, and dynamic. The good ones were totally boring.

I think it might have been a writing phase at the time. And I’m sure I’m oversimplifying it. We are talking about a two decade old memory here! lol. Back then, I read a lot. Constantly! And even though I can point to novels with very interesting characters, such as Mercedes Lackey’s Herald Mage series, I can also say that most of the characters who are good are also conflicted.

They sometimes want to do bad things.

And when they finally emerge as truly good and moral characters, they just aren’t as interesting. This is especially true, at least in my impression, of the Dragonlance Series by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. Kitiara and Raistlin have a spark that is missing in Flint and Laurana. They are captivating. Tanis has it for a while, but by the time he settles down and marries Laurana, it is gone.

good characters

Laurana looking noble and Kitiara looking like trouble… which has a spark to you? Kitiara was drawn by the awesome artist Taurina. Click on the image to see more of her work!

I still remember reading how Tanis and Laurana could be so busy in their married life that they would only have time to touch hands as they passed in the hallway.

Seriously?! This is the married life of two great adventurers??? WTF?!?!

I remember being so angry at that sentence, at the let down in life and the book, as a teenager. Over two decades later, and it still pisses me off! Where is the passion, the spark?

Being good doesn’t mean being boring!

Or worse, in the case of Fizban, who is the great good god of the Dragonlance series, most of the time he is an absent minded, bumbling fool. Think of him as Gandalf gone a bit more senile. And heck, Gandalf is another one. He just isn’t mesmerizing to me. More lost and spouting mysteries without really showing what he can do except in dire circumstances. That has become so cliched.

I wanted to read about a good character who was equally as dynamic and fascinating as her evil counterparts. One who wasn’t horribly tempted to be evil. Preferably one who actually wanted to be, and was, good. A character who used her magic as a part of life and not some secret weapon only pulled out at the last minute. And who had all of that and loved life, loved another person, with all of her soul, a smirk on her face, laughter, and such an awesome personality that she wowed people.

I never found that story. So I wrote it.

Writing that character wasn’t on my mind when I wrote Born of Water. Heck, wanting to find a story like that wasn’t on my radar any longer when I became a writer. Instead, it was a culmination of years of percolating wishes for different stories, of having a story idea that congealed in my mind, of falling in love with how writing gives me an even better access to the world and characters for a longer time than reading ever did that catapulted me from reader to writer.

But I see the legacy of that initial wish in so many of my characters!

Niri, of course, who barely waffles over her intent to save Ria. She is so good and so powerful, a steady force throughout the stories. Despite troubles and threats, she embraces life, falls in love not once, but twice and finds the courage to face impossible tasks with hope. And Ria, who starts so timid, becomes so similar with maybe a bit more attitude. And Lavinia! She is facing impossible odds in my newest series Games of Fire, but she certainly holds her own while holding her head high.

Niri, Ria, and Zhao: All good, all powerful, and all interesting!

And those are just the woman. I’m very equal opportunity in my novels. 😉

Darag and Zhao are equally strong and good. Even when horrible things happen, Darag and Zhao reel, but don’t turn evil. Ty is the most conflicted, swinging between mostly good and slightly wrong. And Sinika… well, I had to throw in at least one character who is unapologetically who he is, and that is a pretty strong (and admittedly interesting) villain.

And happily other writers have been developing so many awesome good characters too!

Harry Potter comes to mind! Hermione and Ron, they are so wonderfully good. There is even now a term for this type of fantasy: noble bright. So in this world of Game of Thrones (which don’t get me wrong, is so completely awesome) where good characters do bad deeds… or end up dying for not having done them it seems, it is great to know there are other writers experimenting with hopeful plots and good characters who are a force to be reckoned with and will steal your heart.

Have you noticed a resurgence in interesting and dynamic good characters? Do you care? Let me know in the comments!

  1. When you create a character, I’ve noticed, you find that, to you, they are a real person, with all the complexities of any person you might know. To bring this to a story, without damaging the tale, is the balancing act that Autumn Birt has so beautifully mastered. I’m working on it, but some of my characters are good, not by inner motivation, but by deliberate choice. Kur Lee, a mage of incredible power, is basically a sarcastic, creature, who is driven, not by any moral sense, but by the desire to be ‘like’ his friends and companions in Samovar. His multiple wives, and casual disregard for the fate of his enemies, has been left out of the stories, because it detracts. He could be an evil character, if it were something he found to be in his best interests, but he has come to the conclusion that “Good” is better, and more successful, than “Evil” and therefore works to remain ‘good’, when he can. Black Cat was raised to be evil, in a society where it was a viable choice, and now has made a choice not to be so. The constant work must be exhausting, since he’s a master assassin, and could, without being detected, kill almost anyone who angered him. I’m only just now learning how to add these properties to my work, and I have Autumn to thank for that. She is quite the source of inspiration and improvement, in my work. Thank-you Milady, for just being you.

  2. I think sometimes the good characters can off as boring but I don’t see it that often. For me, it usually happens when an author is characterizing to the point of extremism. Of course, this makes the character seem less human. I like characters that speak to me as if they were human.

    • That is very true! I hate it when a character is too perfect or used an example of how to be. Everyone has moments that are less than stellar, so should a good character. 😀