Selling the larger than life character

Watching Shadow and Bone on Netflix really made me think about POV (point of view) and how important it is if you’re trying to sell the reader your larger-than-life character. I have always loved these characters, the Kaz’s and the Eugenides‘, for us book nerds. The smart character who usually wears gloves or has a cane or is just on the other side of sickly, but nonetheless. They’re always on the right side of just getting caught, unless getting caught was part of the plan and now they’re on to stage two.

That character. I love that character. But darn, those characters are hard to write. I’m watching Kaz and all I see so far is a character extra from A Clock-work Orange. On the show, Kaz just leads the pack on their journey to collect all the plot coupons they need to unlock the MacGuffin, but in the book, he was so much more interesting than just the brilliant leader.

Cameras can’t show POV to the same degree that narration can. Kaz may be outshot in some of his plays, but you never get the feeling from the episodes I’ve watched (and we’re only halfway though) is that Kaz never feels outgunned.

I realize the one thing that all larger than life characters need that Kaz doesn’t have at all is a character who is smarter than them, thwarting their every move so that they have to be better to succeed. While writing Kakotopia, deliberately didn’t give Jaque one enemy stronger than he was, I gave him two. And in the end, he had to deal with four. Failure was always not only an option but the most likely one at that. As smart and clever as he was, the system was designed for him to make any attempt at changing it fail. I wrote the first third of the novel knowing Jaque and all the resources he could muster would not be enough to fix his problem going into the story.

If you want strong protagonists who need to get stronger to win, give them enemies who are more likely to succeed than they are.

Nothing is more boring than a brilliant character watching a thing they planned to the minutia go right. Because if they’re always right, being right one more time gets boring. Watching a brilliant character be even more brilliant as their ex-brilliant plan goes down in smoke because no matter what, there is always a stronger enemy? Sign me up.

Hercules’ greek name translates to the woman who tried to kill him’s glory. Batman would be nothing without Joker. We would not remember Hannibal’s name if he was not the one to fight. Remember the other take-away lesson from Giles to Buffy: Ten vampires are always harder to kill than one. Failure should always be the best option.

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