The Writer’s Wheel 6/21/2020: Integrity and Honesty in Your Characters
Honesty and Integrity are important in your characters. At least, the one/s you want your reader to identify with. The hero/ine must have qualities readers can admire. You could make a protagonist a deceitful, murdering person but how are they going to clique with anyone? Anti-heroes can be a risk if no one gets them. You have to give them something redeeming.
Right now, though, I want to focus on your good guys or girls. They’re has to be a trust between you and the reader that you’re going to deliver the story you plan to tell. That means a character who’s going to go the distance. They stand for something. Someone. What would they give to protect their family? Their secret? Perhaps there’s both a secret and someone to protect in the story.
What gets us on the side of the hero/ine? We need to understand them, their ethics. They might compromise a line, but they do so to bring the enemy in or to rescue their loved ones. They’re not slippery. They’re not conniving. They simply are true to themselves. There’s no foolery. You can’t say the same of the antagonist/enemy.
The majority of superheroes for the most part adhere to these lines. They may have something in their past that haunts them but for the sake of others, they put it aside and pursue the villain relentlessly. More than a few, western heroes are like this as well. Think of Walt Longmire. Haunted by his wife’s death, he tries to bring in the criminals despite how the investigations get turned inside out and the real criminal isn’t revealed until the end. He gets into trouble because he often doesn’t take all the evidence into account before he interrogates a suspect.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes we take wrong paths. Deep down though, we know what’s important. That’s what you need in your hero/ine. We don’t need perfect. Humanity reaches more readers. Broken down, beat down by life people. We can understand why they’re hurting. We can root for them to climb back to the top. To get their family back or start a new one. To clear their name. To right a wrong.
Honesty is something most people want from others. Although, not to the point that it hurts someone’s feelings. Integrity makes what a person stands for mean something important. Look at those they hang with. Are they mobsters? Drug dealers? You can exactly trust those type of persons. They could be further in than you like. Maybe they did something they can’t get past.
Time to prove to them that you can always bound back. Turn over the good side. You might have to work harder. Rotten boards might be exposed before you rebuild the new. A hero doesn’t have to start pristine in the story but by the end, you should definitely know their ethics. What they stand for, what they won’t let go. That you can work with, expand on, and bring into light. Good characters emerge from the situations they’re put into.