Reasons Your Character Might Be Boring
This article explores some extremely common reasons that characters end up turning out bland and uninteresting. If you're concerned that you might end up with a boring character, read on!
Table of Contents
- Your character can't or won't do anything that progresses the plot.
- Your character has no interests, passions, opinions, or emotions to speak of.
- Your character is too much like another character people have seen before.
- Your character is never challenged or thrown for a loop.
- Your character never changes and develops.
- So, in summary...
Your character can't or won't do anything that progresses the plot.
Characters who have the motivation and drive to actually do things make things happen and thus push the plot forward are more interesting to watch than characters who sit around on their duffs and wait for plot to happen to them. While your character needn't necessarily blow up the house to generate interest (and probably shouldn't, if you're in a roleplay and don't have agreement from the GM and/or players!), a character who does nothing but sit on the sofa and shoot smirks at people and/or mope around and feel sad until a love interest comes around is a boring character indeed. What's more, extremely passive roleplay characters can be nigh impossible to interact with, causing many a potential roleplay to fizzle and die before it's even begun.
Your character has no interests, passions, opinions, or emotions to speak of.
Interests and passions give your character things to do and to talk about with other characters, which can help foster plot and relationship progression. It can even be something completely trivial - as long as it can get the characters talking and bonding, it's all good.
Furthermore, not only does giving your characters interests and passions make them look more interesting, but it also makes them look more three-dimensional. For this purpose, even a brief exchange on an elevator or a discussion over lunch can do quite a bit for your character.
Also, three things are important to note:
1. Having interests and passions that allow your character to do and talk about things unrelated to immediate responsibilities is pretty important - how many people want to hang out with someone who does or talks about nothing but work- or school-related topics? Normally, we describe these people as having sticks up their butts.
2. Simply saying your character is passionately interested in something isn't enough - you have to show it! If your character who is supposedly deeply interested in mythology doesn't actually ever talk about or do anything related to mythology in any meaningful sense, then it doesn't count. Likewise, saying that your character is passionate about helping people doesn't count unless you actually show the character doing something related to that passion - EG, organizing or participating in charity work, actively trying to invent something to help people cut their power bills, studying for a medical degree, etc. (Check out Dropping In Characterization Without Dragging The Story for some tips on how you can show these traits without interfering with the plot.)
3. Love interests/potential love interests do not count as passions/interests. Characters who have no real interests, hobbies, or passions outside of the people they crush on or fall in love with are boring and shallow love interests/prospects, plain and simple.
Your character is too much like another character people have seen before.
Whether your character is too similar to someone else's character or to another one of your own characters, as long as people feel like they're getting a rehash of someone they've seen before they aren't going to be particularly interested because they're already been there and done that. An OC who essentially amounts to a sex-swapped version of a popular character won't generate much interest because people have already seen this character before in a different body and story. An OC who is nigh-identical to countless other OCs out there will suffer the same problem. If your new RP character is pretty much indistinguishable from the last five characters you played except for a few backstory and appearance details, there won't be much to get peoples' interests piqued. Basically, new characters need to have trait combinations that don't make them feel like knockoffs of familiar characters, including knockoffs of your own characters.
And while we're here, deliberately trying to make your character the opposite of a character people have seen before isn't a particularly good way to evade this. Newbie character creators opt for trying to make their OCs the opposite of a familiar character in some way (EG, if a canon character is perky and cheerful, they might create bitter and broody OCs) so often that there's nothing particularly novel or interesting about them. So when creating an OC, avoid simply just going for the opposite traits of some canon character or another. (Of course, it's fine if your character ends up with some traits that are the opposite of what a canon character has during the course of development - just avoid using opposite traits as a starting point or basis for your character.)
Your character is never challenged or thrown for a loop.
Once people realize that your character will easily succeed at pretty much everything, they'll soon lose interest because there's nothing to keep them in any suspense anymore - they already have a pretty good idea how things will play out as soon as anything that looks like conflict starts. To keep people hooked, you need honest to goodness suspense - and that means that the audience won't be sure how or even if your character will succeed and/or survive. (And this is why flaws and weaknesses are important - they can be used to create complications that will create uncertainty in the outcome of the story.)
Likewise, if your character continually wins and overcomes challenges in more or less the same manner over and over, resolutions that should have been interesting and satisfying to watch risk becoming dull. Simply giving an old technique or strategy a power boost or a new look isn't a big help here, either - you're still doing the same thing over, just on a larger scale and/or with different visual effects. New challenges should put your characters into situations where they have to find new strategies and solutions rather than simply doing the exact same thing they did last time, only bigger and flashier.
Your character never changes and develops.
A character who stays exactly the same - in exactly the same mindset with the same thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and opinions forever - will sooner or later grow boring to watch. Once it gets to the point where keeping the character the same means that you have to start recycling old plots because your character's current personality and views won't allow for your character to do anything that hasn't been done before, it's either time to end the story, to get rid of the character, or to start allowing character development.
Stop and think: do you like all of the same things, and only the same things you liked five years ago? Are your opinions and views on things exactly the same as they were ten years ago? What about the people around you - are they all exactly the same as they were in the past? Probably not. People discover new things that catches their attention while they grow tired of old things. They experience and learn things that make them change their minds and attitudes over time, whether for better or worse.
Also, not only can a static character become boring, but a static character can break peoples' willing suspensions of disbelief if they can't believe that it's realistically possible for the character to experience something like that without being affected in some way or learning something from it.
So, in summary...
- Characters who are active tend to be more interesting to watch than characters who are passive. Make your character do things and make conscious, deliberate decisions that drive the story and set dramatic events into motion at least part of the time.
- Give your character interests, passions, and opinions - and make sure that they aren't all limited to or used only for things required by work or school responsibilities.
- Characters who are essentially another character with a few minor details changed probably won't be very interesting - since they are, after all, another character with a few minor details changed. (Worried about your character being too much like another? Check out Borrowing & Sharing Ideas In Fiction - When It's Okay, & When It Isn't.)
- Give your character challenges that will be genuinely difficult to overcome - and give your character challenges that will require fighting smarter, not harder.
- If a lack of character development is keeping you from doing new things with your story, it's time to end the story, get rid of the character, or give the character development.
You might also be interested in:
Character Creation & Development Theory (Or, How To Make Characters 101!)
Basic Tips To Improve Your OCs & Fan Characters
Building Better Backstories - Tips & Ideas
Writing Character Profiles & Bios - Tips & Advice
So You Want To Have An Attractive Character?
Tips & Ideas To Make Better & More Interesting Powers
Dropping In Characterization Without Dragging The Story
Core Drives: What They Are, And Why Your Characters Need Them
Alexis Feynman's Guide To Writing Proactive Characters