author C.C.Cole's blog

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Neutral Characters

"Fantastic Four:  Rise of the Silver Surfer"
"Dune" character Princess Irulan

When developing characters to create stories, to me the most difficult to create is the character that doesn’t play either side of good or evil, the neutral character.  In order to define such a character, one must define neutrality.

What is neutral in our everyday lives?  One answer:  Weather.  It gives us warmth, sunshine, rain, and horrific deadly storms.  And it’s not personal.  In people, who is neutral that we see everyday?  Pretty much everyone we don’t know personally that doesn’t have an evil agenda.  That could be any bank teller, a person pumping gasoline minding his/her own business, or someone in line during a lunch break.  It’s not personal.

In character development, I’ll admit a main neutral character would be a challenge to write.  It can be done, and in the few times I’ve seen it, usually there’s some “good or evil tendencies” (in gamer-language).  However, in supporting characters, neutral characters add an element of intrigue, especially when the reader is unsure of what side he/she is on, or may have a separate agenda.  Example:  Varys the eunuch in “A Song of Ice and Fire” (Game of Thrones). 

Most often I’ve seen neutral characters used in epics are narrators, famously in “Dune” Paul’s wife-to-be Princess Irulan.  First person points of view are long time favorites of mine and narration from a neutral character is another favorite.  Many readers, like me, like to feel like they’re being told a story, which as authors, we hope to be doing, so neutral characters can be very effective in this way.

My knee-jerk favorite neutral character is the Silver Surfer of the old “Fantastic Four” comic series and recent films.  (My brother collected comic books).  While one can argue the planet-eating Galactus (what a great evil character, move over, Death Star!) exploited the Surfer, his actions resulted in a massive death and destruction.  The Silver Surfer enters the story as a neutral important supporting character, and shows good tendencies as the story develops.

New authors go forth, as always and create awesome characters.  Good, neutral, or evil, surprise us.  I never lose faith in what new authors can create.


  1. Thanks for the informative post. I am not an author. I read and review books for my pleasure and to help promote authors that I enjoy. Information like this helps to educate me a bit about the writing process and enables me to grow as a reviewer. I hope it will reflect in my reviews.
    laura thomas

  2. If a character is good and evil in roughly the same amounts, does that make them neutral?

  3. Bree, I think it would depend on the story. Varys, the example I gave above, is like you describe, so I'd say yes. Thanks for the comments!