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I have a very well-built up world with politics, religions etc, that I've built up over the course of my writing. But I have recently realised that I care more about the world than the character.

I have no cares for my character at all. He is fleshed out, and deep thinking, and I understand him well. Yet I spend lots of my writing describing the world and find it hard to write about the character, rather than the world.

How do I enjoy writing about my character, to a similar level that I enjoy writing about the world?

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Here are three possible answers, from the biggest intervention to the smallest, depending on what the underlying issue is:

  • Maybe you aren't interested in people. That isn't an accusation. But we all write best the things we love best. Sometimes, in order to address our weaknesses as writers, we first have to address our weaknesses as observers. I used to be very bad at writing visual detail, because I'm not very detail oriented. I had to learn to pay attention to that aspect of the world in order to write it. Similarly, maybe you need to study people more, and take more interest in their lives.

  • Maybe this character just isn't interesting. This is your world. There are theoretically millions of people in it. Why stick with a dud? Come up with a different character, one you are interested in --maybe one that is perfectly suited to illuminate parts of your world. Master of the 5 Magics (to use a favorite example) does this very well. The writer did some great world building, both in terms of locations, but also in terms of the magic system he created. How to make that interesting? Create a character who has pressing internal and external reasons to travel across the world, and master each of the separate systems.

  • Maybe this character has no goals. Maybe the character isn't a dud, and maybe you're not bored by people. Maybe this particular character doesn't want anything. Characters are only interesting when they want things and pursue them. And when they experience internal and external conflict around those goals, it makes them compelling.

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Sounds like you need a new character to me.

What I would do would be revisit the worldbuilding and look for something that would cause a deep issue for some character, and reinvent a story about that character.

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You and your readers will only care about your story if it contains a character who is instrumental in protecting or shaping this world:

  • Bring a disruptive force to bear down upon on your planet or your character's personal life. (Conflict)
  • Give your character the primary role in shaping the outcome of this disruption. (Protagonist)
  • Give another character the purpose of opposing or undermining your character in thought, words, or actions. (Antagonist)
  • The impact of that outcome can range from personal to global. (Everyday hero vs. superhero)
  • The outcome can range from success to failure. (Yay hero! vs. tragedy!)

Cutting out the backstory: In early drafts of your story, you might spend a lot of time describing and explaining the world before the conflict. It's frankly difficult for most readers to wade through all this information. In later drafts, cut away almost everything leading up to the moment of conflict. Begin your story about five minutes before the conflict ("in medeas res"). Then, let the conflict, action, and dialog reveal the nature of your world. Letting your readers figure it out is half the fun! Avoid using exposition as a crutch. I know you're in love with your world and cutting like this is hard, but doing so makes for a much better story. To see examples of this, watch the first five minutes of almost any Hollywood movie.

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You can take a philosopher you agree with, turn them into a character, and build them a thorough backstory. Such a character will be "fleshed out, deep thinking," and you'll "understand them well"—

—none of which makes them interesting to read or write about. Kant was certainly deep-thinking, but given his clockwork nature, I would not love reading about his day.

As you'll hear in every writing advice ever: you need more conflict.

Where there is conflict, there is a goal, and there are obstacles. Seeking that goal and successfully moving forward gives a sense of progression, and overcoming those obstacles in unexpected ways leaves the reader delighted.

Give 'em big goals! Throw them at powerful opponents! Design them ripe for change, so there is room for a character arc, or make them static and have the world reform around them instead! Myself, there's nothing I love more than an ambitious protagonist out to change the world.

I won't condescend you by describing the various types of conflict and instead try to give you actionable advice: take a character you just loved reading about, be they the main protagonist or else, and try to clone them in your story.

This has 2 benefits. First, trying to "port" that character without copy-pasting them wholesale will turn out much harder than you expected, and it will teach you much about why you enjoyed them so. You'll find which aspects matter and which don't.

Second... you'll now have someone you want to write about. Ta ta! Of course, no one wants to be a rip-off, but now that you've really dissected the source character you can take what you want only and try to mix that with what you liked about your original character.

It's perfectly fine to do this with more than just 1 character, too — throw many of your favorite characters into the blender and see what you get in the end. Some of the traits will combine in surprising ways and spit out someone completely different.

In the end, it comes down to having an interesting character; someone you're dying to get more of. Barring that, the character must be part of the world, not an island float around out in the ocean. Satisfy these two conditions and tell me if you still have the problem.

(Like, actually tell me. If I'm wrong, I want to know it, and I want to learn better.)

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