Friday, September 24, 2010

Compelling Characters: The Great Blogging Experiment

Today is The Great Blogging Experiment, hosted by Elana Johnson, Jen, and Alex. Visit the links to find all of the gajillion bloggers talking about this topic today. Should be fascinating to see how so many writers view characterization differently.

This is a huge topic, so I'm going to boil it down to what I feel are the basics that make up compelling characters.

I think the most compelling characters are the ones who are the most developed, the "roundest," as they often say. But those terms don't really do the concept justice.

Compelling Characters

They are not easily figured out by what they look like on the outside. They think, feel, and have depth, layers. (Like those from The Help.)

What others think of them isn't necessarily the entire truth. (How about that Mr. Darcy?)

Their background and past experiences have shaped and defined them, and those things impact the current story and how they behave in it. (Easy example: Harry Potter.)

A compelling character isn't perfect, but is doing their best, even if that means standing facing danger, public ridicule, or something else. (Montag sure has a fight.)

It's someone I can relate to, even in a small way, and even if they're in a bizarre situation I'll never be in. (Katniss, anyone?)

A compelling character needs weaknesses and flaws, but ones that aren't so huge I dislike the person. To balance the flaws, they need a redeeming quality. (We'd hate John Cleaver without his redeeming quality. With it, he intrigues us.)

I like seeing characters who have weaknesses that can be turned on their heads to become strengths in the final, crucial moments of the story. (Stealing from myself here: this one is very Tabitha.)

Most of all, a compelling character is someone who has become so real to me that even after I read the last page and close the covers of the book (or turn off the Kindle, as the case may be), I keep thinking about them for a long, long time.


19 comments:

Sue said...

You've covered it so perfectly I have nothing to add. No wonder I like your characters so much!

=)

Jessica G. said...

Interesting points and I agree with them. My main problem is that I see the inside of their head so well that I can't quite tell what the outside looks like.

Talei said...

Nicely said, I love a book which keeps me thinking about them long after I've closed the last page - and usually I'll re-read them. ;)

Tere Kirkland said...

Love your examples, especially that they aren't what they appear to be from the outside.

Great post!

Jen Daiker said...

I love how with each description you gave an example! I fully agree with Harry Potter!!! I loved him, and his friends, J.K. Rowling new her CHARACTERS.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Great points and great examples! :-)

Stephanie Black said...

So true that good characters feel real--my sister and I can discuss Scarlett O'Hara like she's an actual person (what was she THINKING?).

Jaime Theler said...

Slam dunk for examples! Great points, Annette.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the line that a compelling character isn't perfect but still doing his best.

Lola Sharp said...

Yeah...nice examples. :) Well done.

Have a wonderful weekend,
Lola

Steph said...

Very nicely put. I like the examples. I had not seen the video for Tower of Strength before. Very nice!

Lisa Loo said...

WInner! Winner!!! Go check out my blog!!! I'm so excited for you!!

L.T. Elliot said...

All of the women in Band of Sisters have that feel to me. Every now and then I find myself thinking about them as though they're real people.

Melissa said...

I love all of your examples. You covered so much, so well. Great job

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great points...I love it when you feel like you know the character and you can't stop thinking about them...like they are a real person. :)

N. R. Williams said...

I love the characters who jump off the page and come visit me for awhile. Good post.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Melanie Jacobson said...

I feel like I do characters well but I still have so much to learn. I need to do a better job of balancing the flaws with the redeeming qualities.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Great examples and wonderful post. Thanks!

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I like your list of examples!

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