Which is better?
The pros and cons of devoting your time to either developing interesting characters or building your fictional world...

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✥ Interesting Characters

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a prime example of well thought out characters with depth. Kaz Brekker, Dirty Hands, leader of the Dregs, is one of the best angsty main characters I have ever encountered. He isn't just a dark brooding boy... He's full of flaws that make him hateable and relatable all at the same time. If he wasn't the main character, he could easily be a villain, but you find yourself rooting for him all the same. All of her characters are amazing like this! I highly suggest you give the book (and sequel) a read if you want killer character backstories and personalities.

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Every author is guilty of the "cookie-cutter-character" at some point in their journey. It's so easy to just follow a mold and then slap your chosen character name on it.

Here are some cookie-cutter-character types to avoid:

  • Perfect Model Boy (Ahem... Curly dark hair, piercing gaze, just the right amount of sass... Percy Jackson wannabes...)
  • Rebellious/Defiant Girl (You know. The ones that can do anything they set their minds to and will talk back to everyone because they can, even if realistically they would get killed.)
  • The Outgoing Friend (So your main character is shy. Their friend must be the polar opposite to make it interesting? Try again.)
  • All Powerful Character (So your character has magic or superpowers. Cool. Can they please not have all the power in the world and it turns out they can beat anything? Give them weaknesses. Please...)
  • Only One Emotion Character (We get it. They are depressed/sassy/mean. But I'm sure they are more than that too if you take the time to write more of a personality for them.)
  • Only One Quirk Character (Similar to above, we get it. They can talk to animals, or something interesting. That should not be their only defining quality!)
  • Expendable Character (This is the one with no depth. Maybe just a name. You bring them in for a scene, then forget all about them entirely. Remember that everyone you meet, fictional included, has their own story and depth.)

✥ World Building

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is my favorite example of intricate and beautiful world building. Pythian, a simple yet ingenious world, is comprised of the human realm, plus the fae courts based off of solar and seasonal themes. Written correctly, this world was brought to life and fascinating to read about. It sucks in its readers immediately. We identify with one (or several) of the courts, all the while intrigued by the magic of the fae world. I highly recommend you read this book (and series), not only for the incredible world-building, but also for the enchanting story.

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When world building, it is possible to have not enough depth and too much. We have to be careful not to go too extreme in either direction...

Not enough depth.
A world like this is too simple. Examples include...

  • a plain shaped island/ continent.
  • an existing place in the real world that the author has never been to and knows nothing about (it shows...)

Too much depth.
Ever find yourself skimming over the ridiculously spelled and long location names? Keep flipping back to the intense map because you have no clue where the characters are at now? Can’t understand the economic or magical system, and you’re already fifteen chapters in? This world is a little too deep...

To make sure your readers learn the important parts of your world, repeat repeat repeat. Find tactful ways to repeat everything you want the reader to remember.

And chill with the names... You don't have to name every nook and cranny of your world. It's good to have a well thought out world, but you don't have to info dump it all into your book. You can hint at there being more to the world, which is why you want to know your world well before you write about it. Find a good balance! (Beta readers can help you with this!)

✥ So which is better?

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Often, authors devote all of their time and energy to one or the other. Characters or World. Ideally, both would be great! But let's face it... That's hard...

Personally, I think that an interesting world without interesting characters is hard to fall in love with. You can make your readers love your world (no matter how bland) if they see it through the eyes of characters they love.

On the other hand, an interesting world with so-so characters can only hold my attention for so long. Bland characters make the plot drag, no matter how incredible the world is... And we can probably all think of a couple of examples of books that fail this way.

It may be more of an opinion, so I would love to hear from you guys and what you think is the best combination for a book!

Feel free to message me about anything, and thank you for reading! :)

- Aurora ✾

This article was written by @aurorarae on the We Heart It Writers Team.