So today I will attempt to start a new series on different types of characters. Any writer knows that in order to make a story work, they must have characters, and these characters must have a select amount of traits to make them likable (or even unlikable if that is the goal someone is going for), relatable, and realistic.
A disclaimer before I go on: there may be spoilers concerning different books and such throughout these posts so just a heads-up, if you don’t want to be spoiled on a certain book or movie, you may want to skip the sections where I will put “Spoilers Below”, then I will mark where the end of the spoilers are by putting “End of Spoilers”.
One thing that has always helped me, is looking at other people’s characters and seeing what they have done to make their character act a certain way. What is it about this certain character that makes me feel attached to them? Why aren’t I as attached to Johnny as I am to Sally? What does Ben do that makes me annoyed with him? Finding these things out can help me study how the author wrote them, whether purposefully or unintentionally creating the character to make me respond a certain way to him or her.
Like villains, for example. Some villains are created to make you hate them and root the hero on. However, more villains are given a tragic backstory or have some understandable reason behind why they are acting the way they are, and for those, you feel bad for them, and maybe even hope they get a redemption arch.
For today, I will focus on one of my favorite character types. There’s no really particular name for it which I have seen, so I shall just describe the type as The Introverted Cinnamon-Rolls. Anyone who is a writer usually knows that the term “cinnamon-roll”, when associated with a character, means that the character is a lovable, usually innocent character who needs to be protected, and who generally is optimistic.
The Introverted Cinnamon Rolls are the characters who are quiet, yet sweet and sensitive. One such character is Walter Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series.
Anyone who has read the whole eight-book Anne of Green Gables series has met Walter Blythe, Anne and Gilbert’s second son and third-born. Throughout the three books he is in, he is shown to be a sensitive, gentle boy who is generally peaceable and quiet. He likes poetry and often speaks in parables and verses. This, of course, causes schoolmates and others to make fun of him and call him names such as ‘sissy’ and ‘coward’, but he never fights back, though it is clear, especially in the last book, Rilla of Ingleside, that it deeply hurts him.
Often, characters like these seem to have no backbone, seeing that they avoid conflict. Often they seem to let themselves be walked over, however, most of the time, these characters only want to have a minimal amount of conflict in their lives and figure that they might as well do whatever is asked of them, or try not to let strifeful words or actions bother them, as long as it does not require them to bend their morals. In fact, these characters can be very stubborn once they have made up their minds concerning something.
The book Rilla of Ingleside is set during the First World War, and in the beginning, Walter’s older brother Jem Blythe and his best friend Jerry Meredith enlist. Walter does not, using an illness he had just gotten over as an excuse, though he admits later that he knew he was well enough to go if he had wanted to. He tends to struggle with fear concerning the war, and because of it dislikes himself, looking at himself as a coward. After hearing about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, however, he decides he must enlist to protect innocent people.
This is another common characteristic of this type of character. Often their sense of justice and loyalty to those they love and care about overrides their fear of pain or suffering. Usually this is what prompts these characters to fly into action and show the bold side of their personality, which, though well hidden, is still there.
During the course of the book, Walter Blythe changes from hating war and not understanding it, to, though still disliking it, realizing that sometimes it is necessary to protect innocent people and his home. However, Walter never comes back to his home, being killed during a battle in the war.
This is, unfortunately for the reader, a very common fate for these characters. With characters like these, it can be very easy to foreshadow their death, due to their nostalgic, yet often melancholy look on life.
End of Spoilers.
In summary, these characters often have great potential for inward dilemmas and struggles. Whereas more energetic characters can tend to run into trouble looking for adventure, often these type of characters fight against the outward disaster around them, hoping for a way to get out of it. The best way to make them work for you is probably to either appeal to their sense of justice, which usually can override any fear they may have, at least for the time being until they get over their initial shock or anger, or create the disaster to be so compelling that they absolutely cannot get out of it.
Let’s make a quick example. Let’s say we have a character of this type named Nettie Jones. Nettie likes to read and lives a comfortable, quiet life with her parents and puppy-dog in a little fishing town. She is known for having her head in the clouds, and some of the more practical girls and boys in town look down on her for being ‘weird’. We’ll say that she is very much afraid of the Great Woods surrounding her isolated fishing town, due to her wide imagination and different people in the village teasing her about it being haunted.
However, let’s say one day a messenger comes from the king announcing that this fishing town is to be destroyed to make room for his new palace, which he wants to build on the sea-side. Nettie’s whole fishing village is doomed. At first, Nettie hears that some of the adults have tried to reason with the messenger, but his only reply is that if they want to petition the king, they must go themselves. However, old King Henson is rumored to be the cruelest, most unfeeling king sitting on the throne to that date, and thus the villagers reckon they would rather pack up and move somewhere else than petition him.
Now, depending on what goes on during this time, and where the villagers may have to move may prompt Nettie to volunteer to go petition the king, but something that might seal the deal would be perhaps to make Nettie’s mother an invalid who cannot be moved without danger of death. This would not only speak to Nettie’s sense of justice at the unfairness of the king’s order, but also her fear of losing her mother. This would probably be enough to motivate her to volunteer to return to the capital with the messenger to petition the king, despite having to face her other fear of traversing through the Great Woods and having to travel with a stranger who, depending on his character, may not only be stubborn, but perhaps even rude and thoughtless in his words and actions towards her. And that’s not even mentioning Nettie having to face the cruel King Henson!
All of these could cause some great dilemmas, which can create conflict, which creates an interesting story! There are so many different ways to use this character type, and like I said, it has long been one of my favorites!
I hope this post has been enjoyable and perhaps even helpful to you in your writing! God bless! ~ C. G