I’ve been thinking about the question of character these past few days, specifically pondering Jake and Corinne’s characters in Julius. One of the many problems of Julius is that I’ve created two characters that have no tension. They’re charming, idealistic, financially comfortable, attractive and they whole-heartedly support one another. It’s an ideal relationship that anyone would like to have, but in reality doesn’t exist. Couples fight, they get frustrated with one another, they have differing opinions and sometimes the glue that holds them together is more like Elmer’s rather than epoxy.
To add some tension between my now Not-So-Merry Marxists, I used the old “Write what you know about” rule and took a long and hard look at past relationships (short term, long term, romantic and platonic). From there I created a mind-map of all of Corinne’s traits to see if I could see an underlying action that dominated her personality and that would cause conflict with Jake. Jackpot! I saw a trait that could cause her a lot of problems and that could also be part of the underlying theme.
As for Jake, his personality borders on charm and arrogance. Other than that I really didn’t know how to change the relationship dynamics between him and Corinne until I decided to make him 11 years older, edging very closely to that half-century mark—a time when you reconsider values and beliefs, career choices, personal relationships, finances and so forth Once, I made that tweak, it opened so many doors of conflict.
I was putting off this task for a number of reasons—the big one was that I liked my two protagonists as they were. There’s no question I want my characters to be liked, but maybe not so much.
And now a new feature in these posts: a question to readers.
What major (or minor) changes have you made to your characters and how did it change your story?