If you want us to love a character, you have to scuff them up a little, or a lot. Nobody likes a goody-goody, but it's tempting to create scenes that keep characters, especially your favorites or the ones you relate to, from looking like bad people.

The thing is, though, that inside, we all know what we're really like. We can be jealous, afraid, vain, cowardly, selfish. When I say "love" a character, what I really mean is I recognize a hidden part of myself in them.

This is different than making a character "relatable." Relatable is an advertising term. It's a construct designed to make you trust an actor in a commercial who's suggesting you buy Head n Shoulders shampoo. You're sitting there thinking, hey, I'm too smart to fall for this advertising business--until you see a relatable character telling you, Hey, I'm just like you, and this Head n Shoulders has really made me feel more confident! 

There are no stakes in making a character only likable, humble, self-effacing, or a little bit proud of themselves, because those are just the affable portraits that we like to pretend to be. I'm talking about the rest of it, the shame and the shadow. We all long to become whole, able to embrace every human quality we have. Reading fiction is a place to practice this, and writing it is, too.

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Here Be Monsters: 90 days to write the draft and meet your wild dark

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