Hardest Types of Characters to Write

Sometimes you have characters who beg you to tell their story, and other times, getting a character to talk is like pulling teeth. Most of the time, I have trouble writing these character types:

1. Parents – In most of my stories, my characters are in their teens and twenties, so parents should still have influence on their lives. The influence of parents makes for a more believable story. Anthony directed me to this post about parent characters, and how they often end up killed off because the writer didn’t want to include them in the story. (I guess that explains the large number of orphans in YA novels.) I don’t kill off parent characters… but I don’t involve them in the story as much as I ought to. And when they do come into the story, they usually act in cliched or unrealistic ways. It’s difficult for me to relate to parents (and therefore write in the POV of a parent) because I have never been one.

2. Animals – I admire authors who can write in the perspective of an animal and create a convincing story. Richard Adams did it in Watership Down, and Robert O’Brien did it in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I don’t think I could ever write a book about talking animals (unless it was a children’s book, which brings me to my next point) without it being incredibly cheesy.

3. Children – Yes, I was a child before, but that doesn’t mean writing from a child’s perspective is easy. It’s one thing to write a children’s book in the perspective of a child, and quite another to write an adult book in the perspective of a child. I don’t think a child’s life is any simpler than an adult’s… and that might be the mistake a lot of writers make. They might simplify and make light of children’s problems. (How many times do we look back on our lives and think, “If only I knew then what I knew now”?)

Writing from the perspective of any character takes insight. You have to put yourself in that person’s shoes, and sometimes that can be a lot harder if we can’t easily relate to that particular stage of life, culture, etc. In cases like these, it does seem much better to “write what you know,” rather than create a skewed perspective.

What types of characters are hardest for you to write?

9 thoughts on “Hardest Types of Characters to Write

  1. Children are very tough to write; whenever I try they end up sounding either too old or like toddlers. >.< The hardest type of character for me to write though, is a character with a disability. Because a lot of my writing is to do with description, it's pretty tough finding ways to describe a scene with say, a blind character. It's rewarding, and I've done it once or twice, but it's hard.

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  2. Well said! I’m currently Writing a novel where the main characters are in their early twenties and their father is the leader of their people. It makes it interesting and hard to try and make the father act as one when he has to look out for the well being of everybody else on top of it.

    Great post!

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  3. I think the hardest to write characters are the most fun.
    Trying to create a truly psychotic bad guy can be a hoot and a half… especially if you work to make the character believable. But that is the key, right? Not creating stereotypes, but rather believable “there but for the grace…” types. That’s the challenge.

    Now, when it comes to using “intelligent” (or even Semi-Intelligent) animals, take a look at Dean Koontz’ novel, Dragon Tears (1993). It has a dog that has a “speaking” part. This is to say we get into the head of the animal, and it is FASCINATING! Koontz is a real genius in this area. Also take a look at his book “Watchers” in which a dog is given experimental drugs and becomes almost humanly intelligent. This is some very good stuff, and you could do much worse than to read up on how he did it.

    But then, that’s just MY 2 cents.

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  4. I’d say children. On the one hand, you don’t want to over-simplify, like you said, but on the other, you don’t want to project anachronistic thoughts and behaviors onto children.

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  5. Thinking back on what I’ve written, leaving out the question of parents, it seems that what I avoid is writing about boys. I have four significant characters who are teenage girls, but no boys. Lots of grown men… Well, i do have a male character who’s young, but he’s very mature and acts pretty much like an adult.

    I don’t look on this as something I need to change, BTW. My writing tends to focus more on female characters in general, and that’s fine. Almost all of the significant characters in my last story were female, for example.

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  6. I’m a parent. If you want an insight into what its like then carry something around with you 24/7 that might easily break and if it did your life would be over – stress, concern, angst over the mistakes you are making all the time and can see with perfect clarity in hindsight – oh, and did I mention stress and concern; I’ll just mention them again for good measure 🙂

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