Monday, March 5, 2012

Character Traits: Hope

Hi everyone...thanks to all your input, today we will tackle hope. I'm starting by sharing some of your comments.

Blogger Jamie Gibbs said...

I think hope is difficult to master without coming across as naivety.

With my characters, I like putting in, not so much traits as quirks that give little insights to their personalities e.g. my MC curls his hair around his finger when he's stressed.

Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I agree with Jamie in that hope is difficult to write. My main character in my first fantasy series is dealing with abandonment issues. It causes him many moments of doubts about his self-worth.

Blogger The Golden Eagle said...

I'd also say hope is difficult to write--at least without it coming across as contrived.

Blogger Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Nancy,
This post is so helpful... I really don't have trouble with any of these issues. As a sensitive and detail oriented writer, I can flesh out my characters. THANKFULLY. But if I had to pick one, HOPE would be difficult. It's an emotion that can really sound too sappy or naive if not portrayed correctly.

I agree with everyone's observation. So let's try to tackle some of the issues with hope.

Merriam Webster says:
verb \ˈhōp\
hoped hop·ing
Definition of HOPE
intransitive verb
: to cherish a desire with anticipation
archaic : trust
transitive verb
: to desire with expectation of obtainment
: to expect with confidence : trust
— hop·er noun
— hope against hope
: to hope without any basis for expecting fulfillment

If your character has hope than this trait stems from something deep inside. They are either optimist or religious. As the dictionary defines hope, it is a desire, a certain confidence within, it is trust, and the expectation of fulfillment. In order for your character to be ruled by this strong belief they must have something in their past to justify it. Does this mean you spend too much time on back story. Only for your eyes. You must understand what makes that character tick. Hope in one person may translate differently in another. Your reader doesn't need to know any of this. Your reader needs to experience your character acting out their beliefs.

How do you do that without turning your MC into a wimp?

In my epic fantasy, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, Healden, (pronounced Hel-din), is thrust into a situation that looks hopeless to nearly everyone around him. Someone at court is a spy, Healden must battle beast known as the Symberveen, he must rally his men against difficult foes, he must deal with an aging king who is his father and disapproves of Healden's choices. He knows little about the antagonist and the more he learns the more fearful he becomes. There are moments when despair seems ready to swallow him. And in truth, I let him despair, since this builds character. In the end, he is rewarded. I cannot tell more since it would give away too much.

What you must do to convey hope is to show the inner struggle. Even Christ begged the Father to "take this cup from me," and immediately, "not my will but thine." We see in Christ that his strength stemmed from the Father. I am not comparing God to your characters, it is important to note that Christ came to us in His humanity.

Back to the point. Our characters have within them a strength of will that allows them to move forward when others would pull back. This isn't weakness. When you understand the source of their strength, you will understand how to write hope in them that feels genuine.

Very few of us have faced the kind of obstacles that we set before our characters. But I have known despair and hope. I have experienced miracles in small doses and large ones. As a child I had to overcome a learning disability that I alone had. I did so with the help and encouragement of my mother. At no time did any of these experiences border on weakness. Hope is a strength, it is an assurance of something better. If we change our perception, then writing hope will not be so difficult.

I hope I wasn't too preachy. Please let me know what you think. Did I leave something out that I can address next Monday?


Unknown said...

Excellent advice :) I agree that if you treat hope as a strength then your characters are going to be better off for it. I'm a painfully optimistic person by default, so I can imagine my characters ending up with an annoying 'chin up' attitude the entire way through the story :)

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Jamie
Good point. Sometimes hope can affect our attitude that appears snobbish.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hopefully hope is a little like determination as well.

Carolyn V said...

I think you have to have a little despair to have a little hope. And I agree with Alex, determination too. ;)

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Alex and Carolyn
Yes, I agree. Determination is important. Thanks for coming by.

Golden Eagle said...

Interesting point about changing our perception to better write hope!

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Golden.
Thank you,

Anonymous said...

I don't know how people make it without hope. I need that hope set before me as a motivational driver. Otherwise I'll just sit in front of the TV and veg.

Carol Kilgore said...

I think you could also write hope as the character's belief in herself.

Southpaw said...

Wonderful post, Nancy. Hope and despair are so close that they can cross lines with the right push.

dolorah said...

I think fantasy characters especially need to be written with hope. The hero/heroine is the embodiment of hope, for the people they serve, for themselves, and especially for the reader.

You did well with Healden to show all his hope not just for his own future, but that of his kingdom and all he believes in.

Thanks for the definitions and clarifications. It was helpful to me.


N. R. Williams said...

Well, my comment in answer to all of your comments keeps disappearing. I don't know why. I checked spam and they are not there, plus there are comments in bloggers list that don't show up here. Go figure. Very strange.

So I'll make this just a thank you. I really appreciate everyone coming by and leaving their thoughts.