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In my story, there is a girl and a boy who are trying to remain strong and independent. They are opposites of each other, so I'm not trying to make it so they can get together. They are also on opposite sides of a rebellion. The girl has escaped depression, but it threatens to come back time and time again because of what has happened to her. She has been abused and her spirit hasn't broken, but that doesn't mean it's easy. The boy has everything he could ever need, but he still feels really lonely and starts to realize what is happening around him. Just as the rebellion starts. I don't know how to describe and create them though, through actions, words, or through description. I do know that the girl is like fire but that still doesn't give a clue how to make her independent and strong. The guy has been dependent all his life, so I don't know how to make that switch from dependent to independent, either.

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This is a tough question... Ok, here's my best explanation.

A character is independent if the person can accomplish more than basic functions on their own. This has nothing to do with character, a person can be independent and be very clingy.

A popular way to display an independent character, however, is to make them anti-social. While this is a character trope that's associated with the type, it's not a symbol of independence. A way to make the fiery girl independent is have her surmount a difficult task alone, or to surpass all others in a task or test.

With someone who has been dependent their whole life and transitioning to be independent, show them relying on a comrade or their sergeant, whoever. Then have the main male save said comrade when they are in a bad situation. This show the transformation of dependent to independent in a very stylistic fashion.

Hope this helps, and isn't just me rambling!

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I don't know how to describe and create them though, through actions, words, or through description.

It is interesting that you are stuck at all levels on this. It sounds as if you are just thinking out loud.

I believe I may have a way forward for you.

Set Up Some Conflict, Let Characters Live, Watch & Record

1. Move Away From Generalities Toward Specifics

It is possible that you are thinking too much about generalities and what you really need are some specifics.

How do you do that?

2. Brainstorm Some Conflicts

First think of some conflicts that the character can be placed into. They must be something outside of themselves, not just the characters sitting there worrying (which is often just the author worrying about what to write).

Here's a list of conflicts to try:

  • Protagonist needs something that Antagonist does not want to lose. For example, your character may need a match to start a fire to cook his meal but the antagonist is the only one who has the matches. What happens? Write it out.
  • Protagonist needs something that is difficult to obtain from natural resource. For example, your character needs to get a herb that only grows at the top of a mountain which will relieve the pain of someone she loves.
  • Protagonist has to prove his value to the community. He has been lazy and considered unintelligent, but now the warriors are away and the community is attacked. If he doesn't do something people he loves will be hurt.

3. First, Imagine The Entire Scene

First, sit comfortably somewhere and imagine one of these scenes playing out. See your character talking to people. See what your character does. Imagine specifics. Imagine what your character feels like. Is she sad but energized by anger towards protagonists? Is she smart? What does she do?
Do not skip this. You cannot write it until you see it playing out on the movie-screen of your mind. See it vividly and only then take the next step.

4. Write Out The Scene

Write out what you saw. Write the specific actions. Don't write a lot about how the character feels. Instead think of it as a movie and attempt to show the character doing things. Write down the things that will give the reader clues as to how the character feels. Yes, later you can add the feelings part. But first see if you can communicate how the character feels by what she does.

IRL - Keep It Real

That's actually how you learn about people IRL (In Real Life) because most people don't go around saying, "I feel sad right now", "I feel bitter right now". Normally you see someone cry or with a sad face and you know. You see someone grimacing and you know what is going on. Do that in your writing so it is interesting.

Question Yourself

If you do not do the exercise because it seems difficult. It is because of one of two reasons:

  1. You don't really want to write.
  2. You don't want to write this story (it bores you or it doesn't seem good)

Just some things to think about and a way into your writing.
Keep on writing, keep on learning.

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2 characters with very different backgrounds, seeing 2 sides of a conflict – their journeys will have parallels, but will also be mirrored.

The fire element could be expanded thematically, although I think you'll want to avoid making it too obvious.

Her "fire" is a metaphor for the anger that keeps her motivated, and emotionally protected. As long as she "burns hot" she won't stop to feel the pain. She's also preventing anyone from getting too close. She's not alone of course, there are plenty of "hot heads" around her with similar experiences. They feed off each other, and instill it in each other, but there's also a nihilism to always being angry. They are not building anything. Being angry isn't a plan. It's not a solution. Her "independence" comes when she can break out of this cycle, and anger is not what motivates her anymore.

In contrast he is water and mutable. He conforms to any vessel, accepted in nearly any situation without conflict or comment. He understands what people expect of him, and he plays the part. As he grows uncomfortable with injustice around him, he is is acutely aware that no one else of his status seems to show it. He feels too much. A few loaded conversations with his peers go nowhere. He is so engrained by virtue of his privilege and position that others read his comments incorrectly (sarcasm, or testing their loyalty). He is emotionally isolated, and feels completely without power to change things which leads to him disassociating as if none of it is real. It's not just that others are treated badly and he feels for them, it's that he gets honored treatment which he does not deserve and it makes him feel like a fraud, like he is nothing of substance. The "vessel" is his class and privilege, everyone only sees a shell, a uniform, and ignores the "water" inside. His independence is about gaining the strength to not conform, and insist on a moral code that isn't dictated by class or convenience.

They don't "meet in the middle", but they each have to break free from their environment and forge their own path.

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Make them complete people, not just plot devices. Imagine them first, create them and know them. Once you understand who they are, what they will do and why, then write them.

They are both young, so completely independent might not be too likely, but tough street kid and privileged kid still have to be people. What does each one want? What are their hobbies? What are their joys? Sorrows?

I am writing a character who is very different from anyone in my life or experience, but I know him so well that I know what he will do in any set of circumstances and why, what drives him and what he yearns for. I knew most of this before I started the novel.

Get to know your MCs well, make them people first, characters second.

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