#LoveOzLit: Anne Buist on complex characters

Anne Buist is the author of Medea’s Curse, the first in her Natalie King forensic psychiatrist series, and one of the best in 2015 according to Buzzfeed.

Complex characters

Complex characters are the characters we fall in love with, cheer on or even sometimes hate. I mean, how many times have you been advised that readers respond to complex characters? That your characters need a back story or flaws to be able to do that.

The thing is, do all characters have to be complex?

As Anne Buist points out in the first part of the quote about the worst writing advice she’s received, too many complicated characters can be distracting. And irritating, for that matter (that part’s me). Are they important enough that they need back stories? Or can they just be in the moment that you need them for?

It’s a fine line isn’t it?

In the second part of the quote, I would guess you know exactly the type of character she’s talking about: the handsome prince who saves the day. The handsome businessman even? Sure, they have their place, but as she points out they’re boring. And probably easy forgotten.

But, here’s the thing I think: characters need to be as complex as the story needs them to be. You’re going to have to be very careful judging which one is worthy of your readers’ time and which isn’t.

Who is Anne Buist?

Anne Buist is chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry. She works with Protective Services and the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Medea’s Curse will be followed by her second psychological thriller Dangerous to Know.


  • Annette says:

    I think I agree, honourable interchangeable male heroes are more easily forgotten than the flawed sort! That said characters can come with too much exposition, too much baggage if you’re not careful – you really don’t need to tell your readers that they fell off the money bars aged five. Really thoughtful comments here, I love them! But the difference between Crime and Romance editor’s wishes really does not surprise me – in Romance you really NEED your readers to like the hero! Not so in Crime Fiction…

    • Verushka says:

      Thank you! And, oh, I hear you! Exposition, I think, can work wonderfully or can go the other way just as easily, and I find sometimes, authors don’t even realise they’re doing too much exposition either.

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