You Wouldn’t Live In A Cardboard Box, Would You?

Imagine sitting down with your favorite book. There you are, sitting in a comfy chair, peeling the pages apart hungrily. You’re into it : the plot, the dramatic climax, and even maddening suspense clinging to each line.

No doubt, the story you are reading is a great one. Its opening line sucked you in and now you cannot escape – not that you want to.You’re  gripping to every word, every line.

But the characters fall short. The male romantic lead turns out to be shallow and two-dimensional. Or maybe it’s the female protagonist who doesn’t quite live up to the hype.  The supporting characters are cliche, stereotypical, and lack depth. Soon, the great plot isn’t enough because the characters just can’t seem to get their act straight.

The male romantic lead turns out to be shallow and two-dimensional. Or maybe it’s the female protagonist who doesn’t quite live up to the hype.  The supporting characters are cliche, stereotypical, and lack depth. Soon, the great plot isn’t enough because the characters just can’t seem to get their act straight.

When it comes to writing, creating characters we can all relate to is vital. Are people in real life shallow and stereotypical? Sure. On the surface, they probably are but underneath is a turbulent pool of emotion, frustrations, or , dare I say, humanity. And humans are rarely, if ever, two- dimensional.

These types of characters are referred to as Cardboard characters.

As James Patrick Kelly points out in his book called, ” You and Your Characters”, Cardboard characters are mediocre, stereotypical, uninteresting, mannequin or drones. Unlike Flat characters, they lack purpose. Generalized examples of cardboard characters would be the nerd whose defining trait is being smart, the jock who bullies, a cheerleader who thinks she’s better than everyone else, or even a traditional villain bent on vengeance can be lackluster. Characters need a purpose. They need a place in the world built and a reason to be there.

They need passion, complication, mystery, frustrations, or irrationality. Something , anything really, to add layers to their existence. They demand to be more than cardboard cutouts on display.

And we, the readers and writers of the world, demand complexity from you. We want you to give us characters that move us.

What I’m trying to say is this: Try not, no, DO NOT, create cardboard characters. It’s unfair to your story, to your readers, and even to the characters themselves.

 

 

Writing Cardboard characters and want to break the cycle? Find out more at the links below:

http://thewritepractice.com/how-do-you-build-a-strong-character-in-your-writing/

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/8-ways-to-write-better-characters

You can read up more on the different types of characters here: http://www.k-state.edu/english/baker/english320/cc-flat_vs_round_characterization.htm

 

Posted by

Late riser, insatiable foodie, lover of words

I dare you to comment