Great Characters!

Hey! Sarah here, and today I’m going to be writing about something more writing oriented.  Keep a look out for a book review soon though, on one of the books that Sam and I received as part of our Random House Canada fall preview!  I’ll also be posting on my own blog soon, about everything that went down there! (http://sressiambre.wordpress.com/)

For now though, I have a post that was inspired by our recent trip to Comic Con Montreal (Sam, Meli, Michelle, and I). And it’s all about great character writing!

Alright, so what is it about characters that make them so memorable?

On the surface, when wandering around Comic Con, I think it would appear that cool looking costumes and weapons are the sole reason for a cosplay choice.  Upon deeper speculation however, I think there’s much more to it.  I believe that good characters have the ability to capture the love of an audience, and that if well written, they can last for many years, even when the book/film in question is not in the spotlight.

Firstly, and perhaps the most popular costume choice is that of a superhero.  Everyone wishes to be more than they are at some point in their life.  Imagining that you can save the world, and protect those you care about? Who doesn’t think that would be great?

Now, when writing our protagonists, they will most likely be heroes and heroines of some sort.  Not always with powers, not always with disguises, but they are almost all inherently good at heart and want to take action to overcome the antagonist or obstacle in their way.  We want to write protagonists that our audience will cheer for.  And we want our audience to be able to empathize with them, and many times, wish to be them in some way (though not the situations we put our characters in!).

Next, villains! Writing good villains can be harder than writing our protagonists.  They can come out looking like stereotypes; card board cut outs of what evil looks like, with no redeeming qualities.  Though this type of monolithic evil can work occasionally, I have found that I prefer my villains be more complicated.  I think that a good antagonist had justified reasons for what they are doing, and that it should be less certain that they are wrong in their beliefs.  Having villains as complex and real as your antagonist is what’s going to make your story levels better, and stop it from falling flat.  It keeps readers on their toes, not always sure if good will actually conquer evil, and questioning even where the line between the two lies.

Some of my favourite characters are not necessarily good ones.  And of course, this is my time to once again rave over George RR Martin’s character building in his Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones, for the HBO viewers).

Though there are characters you hate (Joffrey, anyone?), many have gathered a following of fans.  Tywin Lannister, for one.  The things he does are so heart breaking to Stark fans, and yet he still commands a certain respect from readers who see he uses his skills to accomplish what’s best for his family (though the way he treats them is not particularly admirable).  Then there’s a character like Theon Greyjoy, who is so cowardly that he loses all respect, and yet still manages to get pity for the situation he’s in (though I’ll admit, I’m in the minority of those who actually enjoys his character and POVS).  And who can ignore a reader’s (and viewers) favourite: Tyrion Lannister.  Though he’s witty, and relatable, he has still done terrible things (read the books!) and it’s amazing that Martin can still make him so loveable.

The line between a protagonist and an antagonist is not always clear, and I’m sure that’s why the more complex characters are so much fun to choose for cosplay at an event like CC.

Lastly, I want to talk about the more obscure costumes I saw.  Which brings up the topic of secondary and minor characters.  They may seem insignificant, but in reality they run the story just as much as the main ones do.  Now, continuing on with Martin, there are so many characters that this point really becomes important.  A character like Beric Dondarrion may not be on as many pages as Tyrion, but he holds a lot of power and is a fan favourite because of his endurance and skill.  Jaqen H’ghar (a personal favourite) plays a seemingly small role in the books, but has a remarkable presence (I also believe he will have a much larger role in the next books).

Looking at JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, it’s characters like Fred and George, Dobby, Luna and Neville (though I’d argue that they’re main characters by the end of the series) that make readers laugh and cry; sometimes more than I would for the main characters.  Writing good secondary and minor characters could make or break your story.  They can greatly influence the main plot, and can certainly capture the hearts of your readers just as much as your main characters.

So who are your favourite characters of all time? Why?

Do you prefer a more complex villain to a monolithic evil?

How do you go about writing diverse and riveting characters?

Let me know!

A book review should be my next post here.  Til then, hope you’re all enjoying yourselves! Feel free to recommend your favourite books to me!

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