I’m blogging about characters this week!
You’ve just finished a terrific book. The plot sizzled, the writing was crisp, the tone fun, the pace clipped along. Now, will you ever read it again? Will it become a permanent part of your library, or will you pass it along to Cousin George and say “just keep it?”
Chances are, if you enjoyed the plot and the book made a good, quick read, you’ll pass it on to George. If you find yourself missing the book, hoping for a sequel or re-reading an entire series just to fall in love all over again, you’ve gotten hooked on the characters.
I’m not an expert on writing memorable characters. I struggle with it. I can fall in love with my own characters, but have no idea if I can make anyone else love them. Here’s what I love to see in a character:
—Flaws. I’m re-reading JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series right now, and on the surface you’d think the brothers–all alpha male bigass vampires who fight and love with intensity–don’t leave a lot of room for character development. But each one of them has a problem that differentiates him from the pack. Wrath, the king, is blind, and is born to a position he doesn’t want to hold. Rhage, the beauty, shifts into a dragon if he ever loses his composure, which is often. Zhadist is an illiterate former sex slave who can’t stand to be touched. Etc. They’re flawed, they’re compelling, and each has…
—A Personal Journey. Life is a series of journeys. We’re all on several at once. How our characters approach their journey, and how they grow, touches us on some level as readers. I love Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson books because Mercy is on several journeys–to learn to trust herself and establish her own identity away from the wolves among whom she was raised; to learn to accept love and form a relationship without losing her independence and identity; to straddle the line between the wolves and the fae and the vampires, understanding that friendships aren’t political appointments.
—Insight. My favorite characters are willing to look at their rough spots and acknowledge them, even if they aren’t fixable. Good example is alpha wolf Richard Zeeman in Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. Richard just can’t stop himself from pulling the caveman routine, from being jealous and petty and, at times, even cruel. He knows these things about himself and doesn’t feel able to fix his own self-loathing, so he just keeps hurting those around him. I want to kill Richard sometimes. But I never, ever forget him. And he’s never bored me.
What are your favorite character traits? Who are your favorite characters?