Characters are essential to a great story. It’s the characters that the reader falls in love with or hates. Stories live or fail based on how much a reader cares about the characters.
Some characters we love from the very beginning. James Bond is adverturous, passionate, and courageous. He lives his every moment with an excitement that makes every female reader and then viewers of the movies feel shaken but not stilled.
Indiana Jones captures the imagination with his dual identity of humble college professor of archeology and adventurer after the next relic. At first we think he’s all about the artifact, until we find out he has lost loves, has close friends, cares about his father, and is actually a Henry Jr. The dog was named Indiana. And every little bit we find out about him from his willingness to do anything to save someone he cares about to his fear of snakes, makes the reader only admire him more.
Then there’s the hero who isn’t romantic, who is barely a hero at all. Rather he’s the person things happen too. An easy example of this is Mr. Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. No one wanted to like Scrooge–not his employee, his nephew, or anyone who had met him in the more recent horrible and empty years of his life. Yet there are still people who have hope for him, and those characters make the hero interesting, a possibly sympathetic character. The reader begins to see him with the eyes of those characters. Whether it’s Tiny Tim or his nephew, they see something in him that can be redeemed. As readers, we’re happy when this turns out to be true. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Most main characters fall into one of these three types. Think about it. What kind of character are writing? Is he or she the obvious hero? Perhaps they’re the ones we want to know every detail of the life. With each detail we are enriched with more knowledge about our favorite growing character. Or is the character the lost cause who will have to be saved by others.
More on characters next week. Now go and look at your characters. What do they tell you about themselves?
Susan Hanniford Crowley