I started this post as “What makes a good hero?” with the idea that I would do a follow-up later this week called “What makes a good hero?”. The only problem was that as I started typing I realized that the posts would be almost identical, and then not very long at that. To me what makes a good hero also hold true for villains, and it’s something that for me is really important for every character in any fiction story: they have to be believable.
If I can’t believe in what a character is doing, good or bad, than for me that’s not a good character. It annoys me to no end when an author can’t have characters doing logical things based on what the character has done previously. I see that as a sign of a lazy author. It’s as if they had a story idea but couldn’t come up with a reason why a character would do that action, so they just have them do it for some random reason. Even the most evil person doesn’t do things randomly, there’s always needs to be a reason for what they’re going. Just doing stuff to do stuff is poor writing in my opinion.
Authors having characters do (or think) things for no apparent reason is unfortunately pretty common in the mystery/crime genre. Suddenly out of the blue the protagonist will make this jump in logic that reveals the antagonist in what turns out to be a rushed ending that rarely follows the path the author was originally taking. You’ll see that the established writers rarely fall into that trap, and very often an author’s first book, which has likely been rewritten numerous times, seldom has that problem. But in the second book it creeps into the plot an awful lot.
So now I ask you, what in your mind makes a good character?