They Can't All Be John Smiths
There's only one character I know of that can pull off the name "John Smith," and 1) he’s an alien, 2) he travels through space and time in big blue police box, 3) he uses the name a pseudonym, and 4) I don't believe a more compelling character has ever been created. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you better find out. Until then, just know that your life is incomplete.
The point is, every character I create needs to be different. They all must have characteristics that set them apart and make them memorable. They need flaws that others can connect and relate to, but not so much so that they're unbelievable. I can't think of a single book I haven't loved that didn't leave me feeling invested in its characters. One perfect example is Harry Potter. Some of my favorite characters in that series weren't even central to the overall story.
Professor McGonagal, confident and proud, always knew the right thing to say. She never let anyone push her around, but after everything that happened to her, we realize that she's just like us. She mourns the death of her friends and she protects the people that she cares about most, putting their lives before her own. The following scene for the most recent and last Harry Potter film, shows the climax of her passion and devotion. In this moment, we knows where her heart lies and we know why we've grown to love her the way we do.
I don't think I've ever felt as many goosebumps creep up my spine as I did in seeing this. J.K. Rowling paid all her characters the same attention and made sure each and every one of them was as developed as the rest. This is something I aspire to do.
A Fellow Writer's Thoughts
While browsing for inspiration, I stumbled upon a writing blog similar to mine. Writer Unboxed is a blog devoted to all things writing and a recent post addresses this idea of character development. I think the author of the blog, Ann, said it best in her post "What Makes a Book Magical?"
"When I read, I will overlook flaws in worldbuilding and plot, if the characters are compelling. But conversely, if the characters are cardboard or I can’t relate to them, it doesn’t matter how strong the world or how meticulously the book is plotted. Every single time, I will put the book down, wander away, and not return."
Characters are what drives a book's plot. They are the decision makers, the risk takers, the lovers, the fighters, the explorers, the heroes, and the villains that make us come back for more.
To Wrap Up
Crafting characters is a crucial step in writing a novel. My next "official" post will focus on my own process and tricks for coming up with characters, their personalities and flaws. My main focus will be on the characters in the project I'm working on for this blog, but I might delve into what went into crafting Evelynn, the heroine in my novel, Chasing Evelynn. She's the character I am, by far, most proud of, and I hope you'll get to understand why.
Expect the first chapter of this blog's project soon. I'm almost done.
Until next time,
An Aspiring Companion.