Paper Dolls vs. People; McDonald’s vs. Grilled Hamburgers and Home-fries

Which meal would you rather have? A hamburger and fry from McDonald’s, or a hamburger off the grill at the neighborhood barbecue with a side of home-fries hot from the frying pan?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want the latter, right? You know why?

It’s the same reason a character in a story can either be a paper doll or a person.

A few days ago I was looking over a friend’s short story. The plot was well-planned and the ideas behind it were intriguing. But the characters were flat, stereotypical, and predictable. When I pointed this out, he said, “So? They’re not real. It’s just a story.”

Huh. I bet the McDonald’s employee was thinking something like that as well.

The trick is sentimental value. That adds the magic, the umph that makes something ordinary awesome.You’d rather have the barbecue meal (even if the burgers are burnt) because you’re around friends, laughter, and eventually somebody will push someone else into the pool, which is always fun to watch. You’re happy and magic totally exists. Even when you eat the leftovers at night alone in your apartment, you’re still going to smile because it brings back good memories.

So think of the characters in your story. They’re now your friends. Hell, they’re now your family. You’ll love them, you’ll hate them, you’ll dress them up in spy outfits and Hollister shirts. But you sure as hell aren’t going to be neutral to them. Make them flawed, arrogant, depressed, or (a very rare person in life) completely stable and happy (if they’re too happy, kill them off and make it a murder mystery) :).  Care about your characters and they’ll become real. And that’s half the story right there.

 

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