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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seeger – A classic work on developing characters.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress – Great foundation work on building a character from an award-winning author.