Remember that character…

November 7, 2009 at 4:38 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , )

Ask anyone who reads and they can probably list a half-dozen characters that were really memorable to them.  The discussion that follows after is what I find interesting.  What do they really remember about these characters?

Thinking about my favourite characters a few common features always stick out.

  • Motivation – I almost always remember what the character was trying to accomplish and why they wanted to achieve this goal.  Partly I think this is because aimless characters annoy me and I dismiss them soon after reading but the clearer the character’s motivation, the more likely I am to like the character and then remember them.
  • Development – The individual character arc usually stays with me.  Where they began, what they became, and how they crossed the space between is really important to me.  Whenever I discuss my favourite characters I always identify where in their development they are because the characters I remember have a clear progression.
  • Relationships – I don’t remember characters in a vacuum.  I see them in terms of the relationships they had within the story.

Physical description doesn’t really enter my list.  That said, if someone asked me what colour hair such-and-such had, or what kind of clothes did they wear, I could usually answer after a bit of thought.  The descriptions are there, but they aren’t the sum of the character.

This might also explain why I really dislike Edward (Twilight) as a character.  His motivation for most of his actions is unclear (though excuses such as ‘he did it to protect her’ are frequently thrown around).  His actions don’t add up logically and when you are feeling the urge to punch the so-called hero in the shoulder and talk severely to him until he comes ot his senses, it is difficult to really get the romantic appeal.  The development of his character is almost non-existent.  He is either brooding and moaning over his existence or jubilant because he is with Bella.  The bounce between the two could give you whiplash.  Finally his relationship with the other vampires is poorly developed.  A back story is given but you don’t see any kind of reason for these characters to stay together.  Edward’s relationship with Bella is dysfunctional at best and all and all, Edward is way too controlling.  I will remember Edward Cullen in terms of his lack of anything I like in a character.

When you ask people why they like Edward they usually tell you how dreamy he is.  Or how perfect he is.  Maybe he does look good (though if you actually read the description and truly visualise it – not like in the movie – he would probably freak you out) and maybe he is ‘perfect’, whatever that means, but he doesn’t meet my criteria for an amazing character.  Edward will be remembered by me for all the wrong reasons.  Though he will be remembered.

What do you think?  Which characters do you remember and why?

Also, if you have a minute, click on the link and tell me how you solve writer’s block.  I would love to know.



  1. Elizabeth Spann Craig said,

    I haven’t read Twilight. Well, I started reading it, but couldn’t get past the first chapter.

    I think I’d know Hercule Poirot if I met him in the street….

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Lori said,

    I agree about Edward. Far too controlling. I don’t care for how he seems to feel that Bella couldn’t understand or cope with the issues facing them.

    For romanc-y type characters, my all-time favorites are Claire and Jamie Fraser in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Very deep, powerful characters and relationships, and incredible strengths despite certain vulnerabilities.

  3. cassandrajade said,

    Never read the Outlander series but I might check it out. I will read almost anything if the characters are interesting enough.

  4. Robin Mullet said,

    Thanks for great points on character development. I know that when I revise my NaNo novel, I will doing a lot of work there. A really great recent YA book, THE LAST CHILD by John Hart, has wonderful character development. It’s not fantasy or sci fi, but I think yoy would love it.
    Thanks for checking in on my blog, Fishing For Words.

    • Cassandra Jade said,

      It must be hard during the NaNo to really focus on chracter development when you are trying to write a story in such a short space of time. Wishing you luck finishing it.

  5. osmosisofaffliction said,

    I’ll by-pass the Edward discussion, as it holds no interest for me.

    Although I am not a writer, I do enjoy it, and have since my journaling days. However, notes on one’s life, in no way compare to actually trying to write something with substance. And how, have I found this to be true, as you know.

    But, the blocked thing, personally, took a turn with one word – well, two … red lipstick, and it blew out from that point. Sometimes it is lying dormant, and words, phrases, or happen-stance and coincidence can trigger a great resource of inspiration, especially when there is perhaps characters lying dormant, waiting to be born, no?

    Thank you for your thought-inspiring post.

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