Complimenting your Characters

You may think by the title of this blog, I am going to delve into a world of how amazing your characterization is... right? Well you'd be wrong. 

When I talk about complimenting your characters, I don't mean "well, Cosmo, don't you look pretty today" kind of compliments. As many of us are artists, I am going out on a limb here to assume a good number of you have gone through a few art classes. (if you haven't, I promise, this isn't going to be an overly complex concept.) 

Do you remember learning about colours? Remember ye' old colour wheel?


Above is a colour wheel (ok, a little less of a wheel than conventionally seen, but play along!) A complimentary colour is a colour that appears exactly opposite from the colour in question. In the above example, the blue swatch is exactly across from the orange swatch, and coincidentally, blue and orange are complimentary colours. No I didn't bring you over to my website for grade 8 art lessons. I will get to my point, I promise!

When using colour, there are five master colour schemes. Without getting too complicated here, I am going to be discussing only two of those five. (if I have sparked some interest, there is a great resource that describes all five of these colour schemes at Complimentary, as explained before, are colours that appear opposite each other on the colour wheel (the teal arrows). Analogous colours are colours that flank the colour in question (the red arrows). 

Back to writing. When you write characters into your story, as mentioned in my last post about characters, we discovered that typically, the good guys have good traits and your bad guys have bad traits (except for the few traits that you have now reversed as per our previous exercise). In the example above, let's just assume that the cool tones on the colour scale - that being the purples, blues and greens - each represent a different good trait; and the warmer tones - the yellows, oranges and reds - represent bad traits. Your main character is probably going to embody quite a few of these cooler tones, whereas your antagonist would fall into a lot of the warmer colours - fair to say? The next assumption would be that your hero's side kick will more than likely be analogous to your main character, just as your villains squad is probably analogous to your villain. But here's the real question. Where does your Villain and your Hero fall in relation to each other on this colour chart analysis? 

Great writers find ways to mirror your characters using a similar approach to my colour wheel analogy. Where your secondary characters on either side of the score will remain analogous to their leader; your protagonist and antagonist need to be complimentary to each other (do you finally see where I was going with this?)

If you can portray your good guys and bad guys as complimentary to one another, you are going to create more of a distance between those characters and heighten the readers distrust or dislike towards the guy that is, in every way, contrary to your MC. This may help in the previous exercise, in trying to find a redeeming trait for your antagonist. If you can find the fault in your hero, that opens the door to find a subtle positive trait to your villain, and maybe that specific trait is what could bring your MC down. Maybe that one negative attribute in your protagonist, is just enough to make him sweat, because your antagonist possess it. 

Give this one a whirl. Use to pinpoint the exact antonym for your MC's traits, then ensure that your villain possesses these exact traits. Is your Hero generous, make your villain greedy. Is your Hero courageous? Make your bad guy a coward. You get what I'm saying. 

Leave me a comment below if doing this helps you with your own characterization in your WIP. For more helpful hints and motivation, you can always find me on instagram, and until next time, go get some writing done!