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Monday, February 14, 2011

Interesting Shoes...

They certainly get my attention. They may resemble shoes I'm used to, but there's something a little different about them. This, according to Mary Kole, is what makes for a good character. (Okay, so these shoes aren't appealing on any level, but bear with me... I'm trying to make a point here.) A good character is both a mirror and a window. The reader should see something of themselves in the character, but should also see how the character can take them to somewhere they've never been. This, to a certain extent, mimics the advice of Donald Maass in The Fire In Fiction. If your main character is a hero, give him some quality the reader can relate to. If your main character is an everyday guy, give him some heroic quality. In other words, a hero is naturally a window for the reader. And an everyday guy is naturally a mirror. As authors, we need to make sure we give the character the ability to be both. Mary Kole feels this is a difficult thing to achieve, and as I mentioned Friday, one of the things that separates an aspiring writer from a published author. I have to admit, I see her point. An unforgettable character is hard to create. That's why I work hard at it every day. So, what do you think makes for an unforgettable character? Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day!

33 comments:

Patti said...

I think an interesting character is someone you can route for under pressing circumstances.

Happy Valentine's Day

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Oh, I like the way that's put--a good character is both a mirror and a window. That's so true!

I love writing characters but it's definitely a challenge to write one that resonates with readers and makes them want to root for him or her. I try to make them relatable in as many ways as possible, even if they're in a situation that most readers might not be familiar with. I guess a lot of this is done through emotion. But...I'm still working on it :)

W.B. said...

Happy Valentine's Day Susan! I hope you enjoy your day.

What makes an unforgettable character? One with a unique personality, and one that does something that makes a difference in a story.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Those shoes are awful! LOL. I think we have to somehow fall in love with a character for that major unforgettable quality.

Tere Kirkland said...

I like characters I can identify with, sure, but if they're too mundane, or apathetic, they can be hard to like.

Love that pic, but I agree, I could never wear those shoes!

lotusgirl said...

Whoa. Those shoes. Yikes. I love a character I can identify with--flawed--but with heroic elements.

Katie Ganshert said...

That is brilliant - both a mirror and a window. I've never thought about it that way. I need to get better at this!

Amanda said...

"...both a mirror and a window." LOVE!

Tana Adams said...

Happy V day Susan! I think my husband would flip if I wore those shoes! lol. I think a good MC has a touch of humor and touch of darkness in his/her soul.

Laura Pauling said...

Definitely what you said. But even with those things what really hooks me is the voice of the character. You're right that's one aspect that separates the published from the unpublished!

Jayne said...

I think a good character might be one who actually knows how to walk in those shoes. But you want to see her struggle to master it first. ;)

Bethany Mattingly said...

I think a good character is also someone the reader can strive to be or not to be. I think you have to infuse the reader with the ability to either hate or love the character, or at least some part about him. I have learned a lot about myself through reading books and comparing myself to the heroes, heroines, and villains.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Happy V-day!!!

Oooh, that is a TOUGH question. I really like and can rleate to a sense of humor with a character--especially if it's my hero. I also like a character who has a good soul, even if it may not come out in how she talks or acts.

Suzyhayes said...

I think you need to know them. Even if it's one sentence. As a reader you have to look them in the eye and know them. Once you let the reader in on their secrets, quirks, desires... you win! Also... no forcing. The characters have to unfold. Just because you think something is right for them doesn't mean it is!

Mrsblogalot said...

I can't see past those shoes to give you an answer Susan (-:

Happy V-Day to you too!

Dawn Simon said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Susan. I really like that quote: "A good character is both a mirror and a window." Awesome.

Diane said...

Definitely some flaws, gotta make it relate-able and possible in the "real world." :O)

Terri Tiffany said...

I have loved reading the answers as I am still learning how to make my current MC memorable, likeable and a little heroic. Much work still to be done.
Happy Valentines day!

David said...

I feel I did that with Brett Johnson without even thinking in those terms.

Ultimately he's a hero, but I made him error prone because the plot required him not to figure out certain things, and truculent because making him just the sort of person who would not want to join a hive mind added to the tension.

Stephanie Thornton said...

An unforgettable character is one who jumps off the page, and yet, a reader can still relate to.

Great post!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My ankles cringe just looking at that picture.

I've read Donald's book. Thanks for the reminder. :D

Kathryn Magendie said...

Not letting your author's voice intrude and instead letting the character be their own person.

Robyn Campbell said...

A mirror and a window. GENUIS. Why can't I have these genius moments?

Making a character that's unique. One that makes human mistakes. Not a copy of other characters from books the writer has read. A writer HAS to really know their character. If the writer doesn't how on earth will the reader?

Super post. *bookmarking* :) (((hugs)))

Tamika: said...

Love the mirror and window analogy! If I can take my reader places they've never been then I've acheived my goal:) Writing should transport you to another place and time; to a world of wonder and angst that is not your own.

Lynn said...

Like many other's here, I like the mirror and window analogy. I was coached once to give my character a unique habit (no biting lip, for example). Ted Dekker had a character that kept a stone in his pocket, and he'd rub it when thinking deeply about something. A simple gesture, but very memorable!

Jen Chandler said...

Unforgetable characters, for me, are those who are human, who have flaws and shortcomings but I can still cheer for them. I love a character who can make me angry one minute and make me cry the next. I may get annoyed by their behavior but in the end I KNOW they'll sacrifice something for someone else.

Great post!
Jen

Nancy said...

All I can think of is two examples from L.M.Alcott. Laurie in Little Women grabs the grass to hide his ring because he is still in love with Jo, and Mac in Rose In Bloom cleans a pipe and breaks it becausse he is unnerved by something Rose said. Some little action that only that character would do makes them unforgettable for me.

Heather Sunseri said...

Hey, Susan! I love that! And that's so true. I do like to relate to a character and count on them to tranport me into an adventure.

Susan Fields said...

The word "hero" always makes me think of Braveheart. He was a normal guy, but willing to give everything for his dream and his country.

Tabitha Bird said...

Real raw writing from an author will get me every time.

Love those shoes!

Melanie's Randomness said...

Happy belated V-day!! A character has to have depth to be remembered. There has to be something below surface that can be dragged out or else the story is just like any other. =)

Name: Holly Bowne said...

I love heroes that are "all that" but then you uncover a vulnerability that makes them "real."

In a book I'm reading right now, the hero is a big, strong warrior, but he can't hold a tune and when he tries to wink, he ends up just blinking both his eyes in a comical way. I think doing things like that with a character just makes him endearing.

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