Monday, June 23, 2014

Guest Post with Shallee McArthur

I recently joined another group of authors called The Fearless Fifteeners, who all have debut books coming out in 2015. Like Operation Awesome, it's another great, supportive community of writers and today I'm featuring a guest post from one, Shallee McArthur. So without further ado, take it away Shallee:

Give Your Characters Some Crazy

You don’t really have to look very hard to find oodles of information on how to write better characters. We know we’re supposed to make them three-dimensional. We know they should be complex. We know they should be change during the story. Some people debate about whether or not they should be relatable. Strengths, weaknesses, backstory, character arcs…we’ve heard it all, and if we haven’t, a quick Google search will solve that.

But today I want to talk about something else entirely. Instead of focusing on giving your character complexity, let’s review the benefits of giving your character some crazy.

I’m probably in the minority here, but I’ve recently gone on a Netflix anime binge, whereupon I discovered the hilarity that is Ouran High School Host Club. The show is about a boy’s club at a private school that exists for the sole purpose of entertaining/wooing girls—and focuses on what happens when a girl mistaken for a boy becomes part of the club. The premise is ripe for satire and comedy, but what really kept me coming back were the characters.

It wasn’t their complexity—though they were complex. It wasn’t their character arcs—though they did have them. Mostly, it was that each and every one of them were completely nuts. Obviously, it’s a comedy, so you have to have crazy, funny, over-the-top characters. But it got me thinking…what if I did that? What if I took my characters out of the three-dimensional box and, well…

Made them a little crazy?

It didn’t work with all of them in my current story. But there were two in particular who I let go beyond what I expected of them. I gave them quirks. I gave them traits that contradicted what seemed “normal” for their character. I let them say things—even do things—that were unexpected. I expanded my idea of who they SHOULD be within the role they were playing, and brainstormed who COULD be in that role that had a little more spice.

You know what happened? They became real. They became fun. They became—in one character’s case—disturbing and a little tragic. And they made me want to keep coming back to my story again and again.

So the next time you’re stressing out over the recipe for a new character, try asking yourself if throwing in a little crazy will add to the flavor!

Shallee McArthur originally wanted to be a scientist, until she realized she liked science best in fictional form. Her debut YA sci fi, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE comes out November 4, 2014 from Sky Pony Press. Her other adventures have included wrangling a group of volunteers in Ghana, changing her hairstyle way too often, and raising two small nerdlings with her husband.


  1. Thanks for joining us on Operation Awesome, Shallee! For me, the master of crazy, offbeat characters will always be Christopher Moor. :)

  2. Thanks so much for having me, Angelica!

  3. I love this suggestion!

  4. I have watched this show. It's good! My daughter is into anime and "makes" me watch shows. I agree, let your characters have a quirk unique to them. I try and do that too. Good luck with your book! I'm still on the lookout for an agent so...


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