Character Part 4: Character Web

Character Web

You want the story you’re telling to feel connected. You want it to feel organic and whole. One way to do this, is through the “character web.”

By designing a character web, you create cohesion among your various characters. They all feel like an organic part of your story. All of them connected to one another somehow.

How do you do this?

You pick one trait that all the characters can share.

This could be one of the character traits we’ve already covered:

For instance, all of your characters could be connected by the same flaw.

Perhaps they all have intimacy issues.

Then throughout the story, you have each character demonstrate a unique version or expression of this same general flaw.

  • Unwilliness to commit.
  • Fear of loss, which causes constant anxiety, which causes problems for the relationship.
  • Needy behavior.
  • Too caught up in an idealized version their partner to see the real state of their connection.

These are all expressions of the same core flaw: intimacy issues.

Each character would have distinct and specific challenges in the story, but the baseline similarity gives the whole cast of characters a sense of belonging to the same idea, the same theme, the same story.

Or maybe you have all of your characters follow the same character arc:

It’s a coming of age story.

And through the course of the story, each character matures in their own way. This maturation will be caused by different experiences, different moments, but they’ll all come out more “grown up” in the end. This gives the characters a shared element that connects them all in a web.

Or maybe give all of your characters the same ghost:

Then you can go ahead and play out the different perspectives or opinions they all have about this shared event in their past.

Say a group of soldiers all survived the same battle. And now some guy they thought was dead, has come back for revenge.

Any character trait can be used to create a web.

It just depends on what works best for your story, what trait your really want to focus on, and which one can best be integrated into all of your characters.

But once you create that web, you’ve now given your story a powerful sense of cohesion and wholeness. A sense that everything here is a natural part of the overall story.



Character Part 3: Ghost & Passion

Character Part 3: Ghost & Passion

When puttin’ together your character, you’re gonna wanna give ’em a:

Ghost

A “ghost” is the result of life experience. If you’ve ever danced with the darker side of life, you’ve got yourself a ghost or two.

A ghost is something from a character’s past that actively haunts them.

A trauma, a heartbreak, a regret, a sin. In terms of a story, the more profound this ghost, the better.

If the ghost is used as a toss away character trait, like:

“By the way this guy spent some time in jail.”

But that fact is never really used in the story – then it becomes meaningless and it’s a waste of a ghost.

The ghost has to be actively useful in the story. Actively haunting them. It has to have some kind of effect on the events at hand. Not just a footnote.

The ghost will define your character in the hearts and minds of your audience. They’ll feel their pain. Connect with their lingering sadness and regret. It sets the theme that shapes your character’s existence in the story.

What are some examples of a main character’s ghost?

  • They had a child who died.
  • They met the love of their life and let them get away.
  • They made questionable choices during wartime.
  • They watched their loved one slowly waste away from an incurable condition.
  • They had an enormous career opportunity and completely screwed it up.
  • They abandoned their family.
  • They failed to help a stranger dying on the side of the road, and have felt deep guilt ever since.

Giving your character a ghost, goes a long way toward building them up as a believable person, with their own messy history.

Passion

The flip side of this ghost idea is passion.

Giving your character a “passion” gives them a specific expression of something they love.

It’s what drives them. It’s what pushes them to stretch their limits, take a chance, sacrifice their very lives if necessary.

Their passion pushes them toward their future, instead of dwelling on the past. The way a character might with their ghost.

A passion could be anything:

  • A person
  • An idea
  • An object
  • A philosophy
  • A spouse
  • A child
  • The pursuit of justice
  • A business
  • A sport
  • Music
  • Art

Anything the character cares a great deal about. Anything they derive great joy and satisfaction from.

As long as your character feels strongly about it and is actively driven or inspired by it – you have a passion.