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Book characters that come to life

Favorite childhood book Wind in the Willows by Kennety Grahame

Memorable characters in books

Boatloads of books on writing offer direction, information, and suggestions. Keep in mind that readers today definitely favor character-driven books so writers would do well to take note of their own favorite literary characters as well as those touted by the critics and the modern media. Creating characters who live on in a reader’s imagination is a worthy writing goal.

Here are a few of my childhood favorite characters as well as a few of the characters who have captured my attention over the course of my adult reading. You’ll also find several books on writing focused on character development. Take a second look at your favorite characters.They may reveal a little bit about yourself as a writer as well as provide a breadcrumb trail to your own process of character development.

Favorite children’s book characters

  1. Mole (The Wind in the Willows) – I did love reading about my little Mole. He’s such a character in the truest sense of the word.
  2. Nancy Drew – Like most of my generation Nancy Drew was a true heroine. She led me through one mystery after another and I was happy to chase her through one adventure after another. In these I definitely became Nancy Drew.
  3. The Bobbsey Twins – My grandmother gave me an early set of these books dated to 1914 and I absolutely loved reading about the twins and their adventures. As a child, the six year old twins Flossie and Freddie always captured my attention but I also loved the older twins Nan and Bert. I imagine there was a lot of self-identification going on.


Lively trio from Wind in the Willows

More favorite literary characters

You can’t get away from Charles Dickens when you are talking about characters. No one creates better portraits. In fact, the classics abound with memorable characters from Captain Ahab to Scarlet O’Hara. There are simply too many to share — maybe that, in itself, is something to think about.

  1.  Michelangelo (The Agony and the Ecstasy) – This biographical novel of Michelangelo had a huge impact on me when I first read it when I was about twelve. For the next ten years it became an annual ritual to reread and experience the book and the creative experience it generated in my imagination.
  2. Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly) – Without a doubt, Michael Connelly has created one of my favorite series characters and he’s been able to sustain my interest in this character for a very long time. Of all the vivid and compelling detectives found in the mystery genre, Bosh remains my favorite. He is definitely an ever-evolving character.
  3. Mystery writer and creator of Myron Bolitar series, Harlan Coben

    Harlan Coben

    Windsor “Win” Horne Lockwood, III (Harlan Coben) – One of my favorite sidekick characters found today in the mystery genre has to be the beloved Win. From the first Myron Bolitar book, Win is a constant presence. Described as a “psycho yuppie,” yet Win remains loyal to those he loves and his fans remain committed to him. (He even has his own Wikepedia page.) Win is probably not a character most readers would identify with but he sure grabs your attention and makes you want more.

Creating a memorable character

What causes a character to spring to life in a reader’s imagination? How does a writer craft a well-rounded, living, breathing character? Description is not enough. Today readers demand to know the heart and soul of a character. A writer’s job is to wrestle that character to the page well enough for a reader to greet, meet, and know. In addition to examining your own favorite characters, here’s a few books for writers that may offer you some help.

  1. Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seeger – A classic work on developing characters.
  2. Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End  by Karl Iglesias – This book will help you dive beneath the surface of a character and show you how to create empathy between the reader and the character.
  3. The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lazlo Egri- This was a classic when I began writing nearly thirty years ago and has been consistently favored by bestselling writers for years.
  4. Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress – Great foundation work on building a character from an award-winning author.

Top Ten Tuesday Top Ten Books for WritersPost inspired by today’s Top Ten TuesdayMeme.

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  • Lianne

    Interesting list! Michelangelo from The Agony and the Ecstacy was definitely a great character, I love how the author really brought the artist to life

    Here’s my Top Ten for this week :)

  • Christine @ BookishlyB

    I put Nancy Drew on my list too!

    Michael Connelly came to a detective fiction class I took during college and he was so nice! I’m not really a fan of his books, but the love he felt for Harry was definitely noticeable (the relationships between writers and their characters is so fascinating!).

    My list-

  • danicapage

    I LOVE NANCY DREW! she’s just amazing. Thanks for sharing.

    Check out my Tuesday meme post here

    ~Danica Page@Taking it One Page at a Time

  • Cindy Speer

    Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins were both books passed down from my mother…she read them as a girl, loved them, gave them to me. What a lovely reminder.

    Also, Harry Bosch rocks.

  • Christine

    I loved Nancy Drew! Your children’s book characters are making me nostalgic :)

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Lianne. Michaelangelo became so real to me during those years. I still feel him sculpting. Those passages were terrific.

  • Vikk Simmons

    That class must have been terrific. It’s interesting to hear how close he felt to the character. I’m sure that’s had a lot to do with Bosch being such a enduring character. Thanks for that insight.

  • Vikk Simmons

    I remember reading all those Nancy Drew books. Such a part of my childhood. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments.

  • Vikk Simmons

    He does rock, doesn’t he? The Bosch books are one of those rare ones that I willingly preorder.

    Those hand-me-down books make for such great memories. I don’t hear the Bobbsey Twins mentioned that much so it’s nice to find a fellow reader.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Christine. Yes, they almost made me start the hunt to see if I have any copies lying in a corner some way.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Yep, I think my early copies actually belonged to my dad and his brother and sister and that goes wayyyyyy back.

  • Zeee

    Gosh! Loved Nancy Drew! And she is also on my list! I remember having the first 12 books in the series! Fave is The Secret of the Old Clock! Oh and I remember one book, Password to Larkspur Lane was binded on the wrong side and I looked like I was reading the book upside down!

    Here’s my TTT Post @ I Heart Romance

  • Ciska

    Great post. I loves Nancy Drew too.
    THanks for visiting my post.

  • Gerith Silversword

    Sigh, sometimes I feel like I haven’t read any children’s books that get mentioned in blogosphere. Truth is I come from non-English language country, so books I read were quite different. I guess now it’s time to catch up :) Nancy Drew, the Wind in the Willows, Anne of Green Gables, etc, etc… Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  • Jade

    Harry Bosch! Michael Connelly is one of my favourite crime writers.
    I like how you included some books that can help amateur writers with developing characters too.
    I’m glad to have found your blog :-)

  • Vikk Simmons

    I enjoyed my visit to your site. Nice to meet a fellow mystery-lover.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Love that people would think you were reading upside down. Had to be fun as a kid. Yes, The Secret of the Old Clock. That cover is iconic when it comes to our favored heroine. (I love that you had the Grinch on your list.)

  • Vikk Simmons

    It’s great that you have a different background and other books to share. I remember when I was about 9 I became obsessed with fairy tales and I spent the next year searching and reading every book I could find on them. I read the world through fairy tales. I remember reading French tales, Irish tales, Italian tales and more. Have fun reading Nancy Drew and Wind in the Willows. I confess I don’t remember having read Anne of Green Gables but it’s possible.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Hi Jade, Thanks for stopping by. Nice to meet a fellow Bosh lover. I’m glad you liked the books added at the end. They’ve helped me a lot over the years. Do come back. :)

  • Kim

    I love this list. Great to add the tips on creating memorable characters too!

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Kim. I’m glad you enjoyed the list and found the books helpful. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  • Zeee

    It is iconic! I can still picture it! :)