Create vivid fictional characters
Plot or character? Today character reigns supreme in the reader’s mind, so writers spend a lot of time trying to create memorable characters that walk off the page and take up residence in a reader’s imagination.
What book characters come to mind when you think of all the stories you’ve read? Why do they have that ability to come alive? That’s the topic for today. First up, five books that are all about the how-to when it comes to character development. Then it’s five characters that have swept readers up into their imaginary worlds with their larger-than-life presence.
The lure of larger than life characters
In my rabid reading teenage years I loved reading about King Henry VIII and all his wives and often wondered what it would be like to live during those days and be a part of the court. Upon reaching adulthood, I now realize that I much prefer keeping my head so that’s not so much of a dream I have these days. But it’s that deep interest in a time and a place and a people that good writing can trigger and nurture. Henry is a bigger than life character and his court, well, it’s been the plot source for way more books than I want to count.
The many paths to a multi-layered character
There are as many ways to create a character as there are the minds that come up with them. Some writers create massive biographies detailing the birth, life, and even death of their creations. Others are content to focus on a photograph and wing the rest of the process. As a writer, you’ll have to figure out what works best for you and that may change from story to story.
Five books that give the mechanics of character development
- Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger – Seger is an acclaimed expert who really helps you hone in on your characters.
- Blueprint for Writing: A Writer’s Guide To Creativity Craft & Career by Rachel Ballon — I discovered this gem years ago and found it immensely helpful. I first applied the exercises to a teen novel that was in what I thought to be a final state of revision. The exercises forced me to go deeper into the story and gave me a huge epiphany that really brought the heart of my story home. I’m happy to see it is now available via Kindle.
- Breathing Life Into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon — Try Ballon’s approach to gain fresh and new insight into your characters.
- Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actorsby Brandilyn Collins — I grew up in the theater so it was only natural for me to apply some of the method acting techniques to writing fiction. Apparently bestselling writer Brandilyn Collins found inspiration from the stage, too. This is a great book with a slightly different perspective on writing characters.
- Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to Endby Karl Iglesias — Understanding how to translate those emotions you feel and know your character feels to the page is an important skill to learn. Iglesias helps you make that possible.
Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write more entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind, and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page. — Eudora Welty
Five memorable literary characters
Who lays claim in your mind for creating the best memorable character? The list will differ from reader to reader. For me, I will never forget the Michaelangelo I met via Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy. The mind meld was complete. Characters like Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Charles Dickens’s Oliver are as popular now as they were in their day.
Once again, it’s a given to say read Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling created a character that millions of readers identified with, and she kept it up over the course of the seven volumes. You could do worse than to conduct a detailed study of the Potter books. Here are five characters that have captured imaginations and continue to live strong, some even recurring in new forms.
- Harry Potter — You simply can’t ignore the Potter boy given the number of books sold, the money earned–especially by the author, and the impact created on a new generation of readers.
- Sherlock Holmes — The great detective has inspired the imaginations of many since his first footsteps across the literary landscape. Even his own creator couldn’t kill him. Today the various permutations continue as he lives on in movies.
- Scarlett O’Hara – Let’s face it, Scarlett is grandmother to the thousands of romance heroines that have fed the imaginations of voracious readers since she uttered, “Tomorrow I’ll think of some way…after all, tomorrow is another day.“
- Dracula – Granddaddy of all vampires, Count Dracula continues to live in our imagination and in our cutlure within the pages of books and on the screen.
- Jayne Eyre – This unconventional, misunderstood heroine continues to capture hearts even in this contemporary society we live in.
I know there are many more characters and I would love for you to share your favorite in the comments below.
Thanks to the folks at The Broke and The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday weekly meme and their Top Ten Tuesday image featured above. (Yes, I’m a bit late with this week’s contribution.) Ready to read the classics? Join The Classics Club. My 5 year 50+ booklist is here: The Classics Club project. Short story lovers, check out The Short Stories Challenge.
- IMAGE & AFFILIATE CREDITS: Book covers and titles are affiliate links and sourced via Amazon; Photo “Eudora Welty” by via article.wn.com