Monday, January 17, 2011

Character? What Character? That's My Best Friend You're Talking About!

What is it, exactly, that keeps us reading through every book in a series? What keeps us reading books at all, even if they may not have extremely twisted plots or deep metaphorical meanings to them? People have said its because of overarching story arcs, like the threat of Voldemort in Harry Potter. Others have said it's because of the cliff-hangers that are present at the end of many books in a series (Hunger Games, anyone?)

You know what I say? It's love.

Okay. That sounded way less cheesy in my head. But I hope you overlook the cheesyness and see my point.

We fall in love with characters. I don't know about you, but I wanted to read all seven HP books because I wanted to see what happened with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the HP cast. Although, it's not even to see what happens to them. It's just to spend time with them. That's why we're so devastated when good books or good series are over even if all the plot elements have been wrapped up and there is no cliff-hanger. Because that's the end of our little stint with those characters.

Like my post title says, those characters, for however long we have spent reading their book, have become some of our closest friends. We love them.

I think it's the same with your own characters, too. You've probably heard that characters are one of the driving points of a story or novel. It's true. But your characters can only take the wheel when your readers love them. In order for your characters to be lovable, there are some things that have to happen.

Alright, maybe just one thing. The other things are mainly just suggestions.

But overall, to have your readers love your characters, you have to love your characters. I think you can probably follow what might happen if you hated your characters. It wouldn't work out well.

But how do you even make lovable characters? Let's make a list, shall we? ("Yay! Lists! Organization!" says my Left Brain.)

1. Imperfectness. People hate perfect people. They are not only not realistic, but people generally like people that are on the same level as they are -with faults. Everyone has them. Your characters need to have them too.

2. Humour. I don't think this is a necessity, but some of my favourite characters and books are ones that make me laugh. Fred and George are two of my favourite characters in Harry Potter just because they're always so hilarious. This means you have to have a sense of humour too, mind you, but I have faith in you!

3. Oddities. Oddities. Interesting-ness. Uniqueness. Whatever you want to call it, your character must stick out. If you think that's not realistic, you're wrong. Everyone has something weird about them. Besides, people like interesting people. It's common sense. Whether your character turns his lips green from making fireworks (Eliot in Scrambled Eggs at Midnight) or is the Boy Who Lived (guess where he's from. Yeah. Knew you wouldn't figure that out) they need to be interesting. Even if it's something as simple as they are missing a toe.

What else makes you love a character? Who are your favourite characters and why?


  1. This is a great post, and so true! I love an odd, quirky character, and I especially love when a book has a whole CAST of quirky characters. It makes everything else, from the story to the setting, just come to life!

    One of my favorite pieces of characterization advice is from James Scott Bell, who recommended in "Plot & Structure" that your lead character have either "grit, wit, or it" - as in, they either have to be willing to get their hands dirty, have to be funny and smart, or have to have a certain charisma that draws people to them. When I think of my all-time favorite characters, they do all fall into at least one of these categories!

    Hm, now I'm inspired to go make a list of quirky personality traits for when I need to spice a character up a bit. lol, thanks for the idea!

  2. No problem! Thanks for the extra tidbits as well.

  3. that's what i need for my new novel!!!! Thank you a million times squared!!!! Excited preppy chic squeal!!


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