Good evening! It's wonderful to be typing again. The holiday season is really busy this year, so it's nice just to sit down and write a blog post. I'm continuing my series about writing steampunk fiction. Characters are an essential part of any fictional works. An author needs heroes, villains, supporting characters, and more. Steampunk has a wide variety of characters, but I noticed several stylized elements in many steampunk novels. I'm going to walk you through the process and this should be an interesting post.
Let's start with a protagonist. After you figure out a basic storyline, nothing can happen without a lead character. Your protagonist will shape large portions of the plot, so it's important to craft the character early on. Many steampunk works feature strong female leads. I assume it's part of the punk statement to challenge gender biases. However, an author doesn't have to choose a female protagonist. A male hero is perfectly fine too. I think it's helpful to figure out his or her physiology right away. Is your protagonist tall or short? Are you searching for someone athletic? Keep fine details in mind like skin tone, hair style, facial features, body structure, etc. These elements might sound obsessive, but it could matter. Your lead character's physiology will affect their capabilities and how they interact with other individuals. It also helps with consistency. Naturally, your main character needs a personality. This part can be tricky. It's important for a protagonist to be likeable or nobody will want to finish reading your story. However, you don't want someone who seems perfect either. Think about it. What if your protagonist is like a courageous superhero with nerves of steel, a heart made of gold, no personal issues, a completely clean background, the most popular person in town, and perfect in every way? Ironically, it already sounds boring. A reader can't relate to a protagonist who seems like a cardboard cut out. Even though steampunk is a fictional genre, the characters should seem very human. I'm not saying your character has to be a human being. He or she could be a vampire, werewolf, or something else, but the humanized qualities must be clear. Memorable heroes have a combination of character flaws and admirable traits. A balance helps the reader understand the main character's complexities. I try to make my own characters believably human and relatable. They have many values, some personality flaws, annoyances and quirks, careers, hobbies, family, bills to pay, and everything else we handle in real life. Some writers prefer an antihero or someone who needs redemption. This can be fine, but make sure the protagonist has enough decent qualities to seem likeable. Don't forget to make the main character awesome! Steampunk is interesting and fun, so take advantage of it. Maybe your hero comes from a military background and is very skilled with firearms. Perhaps your lead character is a brilliant scientist who's making huge advancements in technology. Pick something you find cool and flesh it out.
Every hero needs an enemy. Steampunk tales need a memorable villain. Great stories usually have an antagonist who has an agenda. They're often strategic, evil, corrupt, and sometimes mentally unstable. Most steampunk villains are very intelligent and appear menacing enough to defeat the protagonist. Your main villain should have a well crafted plan. Maybe the antagonist is a corrupt politician who's rising to power. The main villain could also be a terrorist who wants to make a political or cultural statement. You could use the cliche of world domination because it seems to work fine for steampunk. Just make sure the plan is believable and not confusing. If you're really good at creating villains, making a wolf in sheep's clothing migth be a good idea. Sometimes, a reader doesn't know the antagonist's identity until late in the story. Evil is subjective in a way. Some villains see themselves as heroes or messianic figures who are trying to make improvements to society. Their goals might be done through unjust and grotesque ways, but they don't feel like villains. Unfortunately, it's easy for the antagonist to become a caricature. That happens in my stories to a certain extent, but I want my books to be humorous. If you want a really serious tone and plot, the main villain has to be intimidating. Think about your favorite movie villain. You might be able to draw influences from the character. Like any other character, the antagonist needs to have a distinct personality, strengths, and weaknesses. Again, it makes him or her seem like a human being. Yes, you can have a female antagonist. Good villains aren't exclusively men. I think male villains are more common in steampunk fiction, but it can be fun to change it up.
A writer also needs a supporting cast. Your main character needs allies. The same is true for your antagonist. This part seems to be difficult for budding steampunk authors. When I read both published works and casual stories, it seems like a lot of supporting characters are randomly tossed in the story to fill up space. They don't necessarily serve a significant purpose and it seems a bit awkward. We can fix that problem. Think about what makes your supporting characters special. Does your hero need a love interest who can lead him or her to redemption and a happy ending? What about a best friend who gives emotional support to the protagonist during dark times? Your main villain probably needs a righthand man who carries out specific orders. Likewise, your antagonist might be rubbing shoulders with characters who can help him or her become a powerful figure in society. Supporting characters need context and a purpose. That's the part you should keep in mind.
I should also mention something else about characters. In steampunk fiction and other literary genres, many characters don't have an identity. It's not unusual to have characters who only appear in one chapter or simply stay in the background. If you're featuring something like a war, soldiers will be very important. Obviously, you can't give names and identities to 500 soldiers who are fighting with each other. Most steampunk works also take place in cities or metropolises. A city will naturally be busy with people, but they're only in the background. You don't have to give them a lot of attention. Background characters are often overlooked, but they matter in a way. They still serve a purpose, so you're still not throwing them in the mix randomly. Background characters are more like an emphasis or colorful element that brings some life into a written work. My antagonists always have minions or followers. I give very few of them a distinct identity because they're simply cannon fodder who are going to have elaborate death scenes. My books have a huge emphasis on action and adventure. Fight scenes are very dramatic, violent, and over the top in an entertaining way. These characters are minor, but they make a big impact in my stories.
Does anyone want to add anything to this post? Leave a comment because it might be helpful to me and other steampunk writers. That concludes my writing tips about steampunk characters. Even though I'll be busy preparing for Christmas, you'll still get to read another blog post next week. I hope you guys have good luck with the holiday shopping. Peace out!