Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Writer Wednesday - Your Favorite Characters

We've discussed bonding with your own characters, and that's all well and good. And it's easy, because they are after all, your own darlings, begotten in your own head. What's more difficult is to get others to love your characters. Which you have to do pretty dang early in the story, or why would the reader read any further?

Here are a few of my favorite characters in literature, and why:

Ayla from Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. Ayla kept me reading the Earth's Children series four books in. After that, I lost interest mostly because everything that the author did right with Ayla, she did horribly wrong--at least for me--with Jondalar. But back to Ayla. Who could not feel sympathy for a five-year-old child that lost her entire family to a disaster, and then who was reluctantly adopted by a clan of neanderthals? And then right away, Ms. Auel set up this conflict between this young girl and a powerful young man (very young) of the tribe. It was a winning formula.

By contrast, Tom from Tom Sawyer is never a character you feel sorry for. Instead, you marvel at his audacity. He has chutzpah, he is never daunted, and he always has something handy in his pocket. He is the original MacGyver at twelve (or so) years of age. He doesn't hesitate to kiss the girl. He doesn't hesitate to throw a punch. He doesn't hesitate to take on his brutal schoolmaster. And that den of thieves? They never had a chance.

I could go on with a bunch of other favorites, but you get the idea. What are your favorite characters--from any genre--and more importantly, why?

Also, I'd like to do a post on building tension, but I think we should have an expert for that topic. What author can you recommend to me who is especially good at building tension?


Anonymous said...

I'd have to name Kit from The Witch of Blackbird Pond as one of my favorites. This is my favorite, favorite book ever, and I've read it about twenty times (seriously; I'm not exagerrating). What kept me coming back was Kit's resilience. She's a rich girl from Barbados who is thrown into this stern Puritan colony with none of the grandeur she is used to. For the first time ever--without any of the people she has known all her life--she must take on the daunting work of a colonial household. Many such girls would crumble under such stress, but not Kit. She befriends another outcast, Hannah Tupper, and gains a reputation as a witch for helping a little girl learn to read. She is a kind soul who gets in trouble for her kindness, but who regrets none of it. She's someone you can admire.

Harry Markov: daydream said...

Dorian from the Picture of Dorian Gray. I simply adore him. I read the novel so long ago, but still remember the cold steel blade that beauty could hold and cut you with while making you nejoying it. I love it.

As an author I would have Kaaron Warren, whose "Slights" held so much brilliantly created tension I still shiver.

Chicory said...

Tough question because I have so many favorite characters and favorite books.

Taran the Pig Keeper has been one of my absolute favorites because he's so enthusiastic in the cause of honor. He has such fixed ideas of what honor looks like that he has trouble recognizing it when he comes across it in real life.

At the same time, he's really sweet and caring, and he can make tough choices when he has too (which, since he's a Lloyed Alexander character, is all the time.)

His most important battles are internal -the fight to do the right thing even when its heartbreaking- but through most of the series he's so convinced that battles involve swords it keeps him from noticing when he DOES act heroically.

Tia Nevitt said...

Harry, I love the classics, but I never read Portrait of Dorian Gray. Now I must do so.

Chicory, I had trouble narrowing it down too. My original list also included Lizzy Bennett and Jean Valjean. But I decided to go with Tom and Ayla because they are so very different.

Harry Markov: daydream said...

Oh yes, that novel si extremely worth it and as far my memory goes only 200 pages, so it's a one day read, if you happen to have around 4 hours free.

A. Grey said...

I have to say, if forced to choose just one favorite character, it would be Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance series. I love him because he is what he is and he remains so through everything, even his own mistakes. He isn't a character many people like and yet, there's a certain magnetism to him. I love him because he won't change, he can't be changed by anyone, even his own twin brother. Characters around Raistlin struggle with this fact, but Raistlin himself has no problem with it, even on the occasions when he pines secretively for the innocence of his childhood, when he was a different person.

I'll probably chime in again with another character, but Raistlin holds the number one position.

Chicory said...

Tia: Ooh, Jean Valjean. How could I have missed him while going over the list in my head? He is so awesome! No matter what life throws, he is so steadfast.

Thinking of other favorites I missed: How about Duke (Is that the last title? He keeps picking them up) Vimes? Once again, a case of being very stead-fast when it comes to doing the right thing, and always standing up for those who too often get overlooked by society.

Hmm. Steadfastness. I think I'm sensing a theme in what makes a character my favorite.

Anonymous said...

A. Grey, I love Raistlin! Yeah, he's kind of evil, yet he still has this sort of honor about him that I just can't explain.

Tia Nevitt said...

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I'm finding a few Dragonlance fans here. I can see how Raistlin is compelling, but I'd never list him as my favorite. A sympathetic villain, yes. Probably one of the best. But I never understood his reasons for doing the things he did, other than the aquisition of power. Yes, that Fistandantal-something character was semi-possessing him, but Raistlin wasn't exactly fighting him. It was almost a deal with the devil.

Dang, it's been too many years since I've read the series.

Jean Valjean borders on the too perfect from time to time, but I still loved him. I couldn't believe how creepy they made Marius in the movie. They ruined him; he was highly sympathic in the book.

A. Grey said...

Yes, I agree Raistlin is absolutely more villain than hero. That's one reason I like him. I myself am a run into traffic to save the bunny sort, for the most part. And I can say that I never hoped Raistlin would ever 'see the error of his ways' either. I love him evil.

A second favorite would be Fire from Kristin Cashore's upcoming book titled Fire. I can't say more than that she's my sort of girl though, since it's not been released yet...

Another Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Totally love her and her resiliance. She's strong, but gets confused and is human while at the same time being superhuman.

Chicory said...

I keep hearing about The Hunger Games but I haven't tracked it down yet. :)

Tia Nevitt said...

I've never heard of The Hunger Games. Steeped in debuts for too long, I guess!

A. Grey said...

Ooooohh Tia, you have to read the Hunger Games! It's great! I read it all the way down to Norfolk, three hours, and I get carsick! Then my sister stayed up all night to finish it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if he's my absolute favorite literary character, but the one who came to mind immediately when you asked this question is Anton from Summer of My German Soldier.

He's sweet. He's charming. He's not a Jew-hating Nazi, just a boy from Germany who had to fight for his country. And as a POW in America, he shows remarkable dignity and compassion towards the people who are supposed to be his enemies. And he befriends a young Jewish girl who feels rejected by everyone else.

Part of my love for Anton stems from the fact that, shortly before I read the book, I met a German foreign exchange student at a summer camp and fell desperately in love with him (well, as desperately in love as you can be at 14!) I'm telling you, that guy I met was exactly like Anton. When I read Anton's character I felt like I was reading about Klaus (that was his name).

A little gishy and romantic, I know, but still cute!

Rachel Heston Davis
Up and Writing

Tia Nevitt said...

We all have different reasons for identifying with characters. I probably identified with Ayla because I didn't fit in, either. And Ayla was someone who fit in even worse than I did!

As for Tom, I loved him because he was so gallant and noble underneath that rough-and-tumble exterior. He did have flaws, though, such as greed and manipulation. I actually have the complete Tom Saywer adventures. I have not finished reading Tom Sawyer, Abroad or Tom Sawyer, Detective yet, because I started Fantasy Debut and put them aside.

Merc said...

I like lots of characters. Uh... for example, Kincaid the mercenary in the Dresden Files books because, well, he's awesome and mysterious and powerful and a mercenary and some kind of demonic thingy. I forget. I think he was called the Hellhound once. O:) And did I mention he carries big guns? *sighs fondly*

I would LIKE to babble about some of my favorite characters in a friend's novel, but sadly, she is not even finished with it. Argh. *eyes her roommate darkly* O:) (It's a good thing, really. She write such awesome things.)