Today in class, I was talking to students about fleshing out characters - making them more than one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. Making the characters live and breathe, hope and fear, love and hate.
Then, we talked about good guys and bad guys. About how boring it is, to see a movie or read a book where the good guy is 100% good, and the bad guy is 100% bad. How predictable. How one-dimensional.
But what if you took that villain, that awful, evil, scumbag of a guy, and gave him a 6-year-old daughter, the only person in his life he's ever loved? That softens him, gives him a human texture. He becomes instantly more complex and a bit harder to hate.
And what if you took that hero, that perfect, strong, macho hero, and gave him some flaws? A character I love to use as an example for this is Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) on the t.v. show, "24." Yes, he's the hero. Yes, he dedicates his life to stopping terrorists and saving the world. But he also makes bad decisions sometimes. Really bad. Like in the first episode of the first series - we see him kiss his wife good-bye and find out that he's been having an affair with a co-worker. Wow. He's not so perfect anymore. But that's a good thing. Because now he's relatable. Now he has more human qualities. He's complex.
Sure, this all seems cut-and-dried for writers of action - having good guys/bad guys. But writers can use this idea for ANY type of characters, giving them realistic qualities and traits. And that always makes for a more interesting character, which in turn, makes for a more interesting story.