The Writer’s Wheel 8/9/2020: Vulnerable or Overpowering Characters, which are the Best?
Should your character be more vulnerable or overpowering in your story? Or should there be a bit of both in them?
The Problem with Too Vulnerable.
This often wins no sympathy for the characters either with the reader or the villain. If your hero/ine spends most of the story whining or breaking down, they may alienate others. Now, I’m not saying that they can’t feel emotions at times. Their sibling or parents die. Or a favorite pet. They didn’t get the job they wanted. Their boyfriend took off with their best friend. Maybe they got stood up in an Italian restaurant and had to foot the bill yet again.
Their life might be totally miserable, but they’ve got to see a rainbow now and then. They’ve got to brave a puddle. Yes, a puddle. If you can give the reader some reason to sit up and take notice that hey, this character may be down but don’t count them out, they’ll stick around. They’ll even root the character on.
How do you do that? Make them human but give them a bit of backbone. Even George McFly finally stood up to Biff when he saw Loraine in trouble. This gives us hope for a character. It shows that they’re there for a reason. That the line of destiny doesn’t end with them.
What About an Overpowering Hero?
This can be a problem as well. If a character’s too strong, too disciplined, too legendary, who can go against them? Again, make them human. Give them a toughness. Claire Randall may fall through time and go through a terrible awakening to where she is, but she pushes back against what fate throws at her. That strength is what wins Jaimie Fraser’s heart in the end. She is more than a match for his mettle.
What about the Dark Witch in Nora Roberts’ series? She has the power to bring an Enchanter down, but her vulnerability lies in that of her family. When she uses her strength to take down the Enchanter, her husband is killed and her children at risk. She sends three guardians for them throughout the ages until they pass down to modern day descendants. Together, the three must battle the Enchanter to save their lives and the lives of those around them.
So, you see, even if they have the greatest magic, the most powerful weapon, something needs to bring them down to size somehow. Even Superman has his kryptonite. Indiana Jones, in the end, was just a man. Likewise, Rocky. You can give your character a special quality, but you must make them work to earn it. If it’s too easy, readers get dissatisfied and turn away.
A bit of each quality is needed then to make a character rise to the challenge. Your thoughts?