Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A-Z Challenge C is for Characters

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Has anyone ever said to you, "I'll have to be careful what I say to you otherwise I'll end up in one of your books"? Nobody I know needs to worry because none of my characters are based on real people. My characters purely live in my mind. And it's funny because I often wonder whether the reader sees my characters in the same way as I do.


When you think of your favorite characters in literature I think you'll agree with me that it's not what they look like (particularly), it's what they do that makes them so memorable.


Miss Haversham from Great Expectations, for example, is just an old girl in a wedding dress, isn't she? Pretty odd in itself, but she goes much deeper. She's worn the same outfit (minus a shoe) for decades, she's turned all the clocks off, and it's her dearest wish to break the heart of some poor boy using her adopted daughter Estelle as the bait. Once she's broken poor Pip's heart into smithereens you'd think she was the most evil character you've ever imagined. But she's not. She genuinely loves Estelle who returns the affection. And in the end she repents - even if she does go up in flames. 
I think you'll agree, she's a pretty deep character who Charles Dickens created by adding layer upon layer of thought-provoking actions and quirks.


Let's think of another one.  


Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Just a little girl with a great nickname who doesn't like dresses. Again, it's how she is that is spectacular, not what she looks like: she has an enormous social conscience, she's ready to fight anyone to defend what she believes is right, and she is baffled by many social conventions such as racism. And she never holds back in stating exactly what's in her mind even if she does shock her listeners. She's such a rounded figure that the reader is certain that Scout, who still behaves like a little girl when she climbs onto Atticus's lap, will stay exactly like she is as she grows into a capable and likeable adult.


Who's your favorite character in literature? And what makes them so great (good or bad)?

36 comments:

  1. yep, I never base my characters on real people too. I always love the characters that start out as the social underdog and end up strong despite their circumstances.

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    1. They're the kind I go for too Lynda!

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  2. I've heard many authors say that a way to amuse themselves is to watch their friends squirm when a new book comes out. People tend to recognise themselves in a friend's book even though it was pure fiction which says a lot about our insecurities about ourselves. I loved Miss Haversham but didn't like the version on the recent TV production, possibly because a book leaves so much more to the imagination.

    I’m doing the A to Z Challenge too at A to Z of Nostalgia

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    1. Well, it might be fun watching friends squirm LOL. I think, so often, the book is better than the TV production (or film) - off to check Nostalgia...

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  3. Scout is a huge favourite of mine!

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    1. Me too. I think we all aspire to her :-)

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  4. Excellent examples! i have many favorites, which is my theme for the month. ANd I agree, the more layers, the better!

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    1. oh brilliant - since I'm a very character-oriented writer, I'll go and check you out!

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  5. I seem to remember from Stephen King's book on writing that he doesn't describe physical characteristics of his characters. He builds on their actions to define them. You fill in the physical with your imagination. Great post!

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  6. I never base characters on real people either. Part of the fun is getting to know them in the first draft. And that last sentence no doubt seems crazy to anyone who doesn't write!
    I love Scout and also Atticus, who is such a patient man, a good father, and who manages to hold tight to his moral values despite the society around him.

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  7. I always seem to have people requesting that I make them characters in my books. I never say yes.

    My favorite literary character is Meg Powers from a YA series (The President's Daughter) by Ellen Emerson White. She taught me so much about creating layered characters and character voice.


    M.J. Fifield
    My Pet Blog

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  8. Anne Eliot from Persuasion. She's amazing, and my hero. And Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and Nancy Drew - they were my childhood heroes. I love this post!
    Happy A-Z blogging.

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    1. Thanks S.L. - yes Anne Eliot from Persuasion. A seemingly misunderstood character - the eternal spinster. But she went much deeper didn't she? Good example

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  9. That's a great example Brinda. Yes, I agree, Ute, Atticus is also a wonderfully rounded character

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  10. Scout is one of my favorite characters, as are many in To Kill A Mockingbird! Wonderful "C" post! Julie

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    1. Me too - she's lovely but tough. Thanks Julie!

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  11. Scout is one of my faves as well. I agree with Empty Nest Insider, wonderful "c" post. One of my all-time favorite characters is Jo from Little Women. And you're right, except for her hair, which played a part in the story, it doesn't matter what she looked like. It is what she did.
    Karen

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  12. This is a great post I think my all time favorite is Sturm from the Dragonlance series.

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  13. I'm glad I picked Scout, Karen - oh yes, there's Jo as well, the first feminist. Thank you Josh - have to check out Sturm!

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  14. Ignatius J Reilly is one of my favourite characters. Thoroughly unpleasant and deluded, but makes me laugh every time I read Confederacy of Dunces.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino
    The Funnily Enough

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  15. gosh, good question...I don't know who my favorite is but one of my favorites would have been 'Heidi' and Laura Ingalls Wilder...too many really!
    Good C word...

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  16. Oh, mood, he is unpleasant. Totally deluded (but not really his fault). His poor mother!
    Thank you Tracy!

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  17. My favorite it Agent Pendergast (Preston & Childs) because he is clever like Sherlock Holmes. I like Sherlock Holmes as well.

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  18. Odd Thomas from the Dean Koontz books is one that comes to mind. :)

    DL Hammons @ Cruising Altitude 2.0
    Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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    1. Lovely suggestions, Alex and DL.

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  19. Great topic for C. I'm with you, the characters in my head are unique to my thoughts, although I may borrow a line here or there. Hehe.

    My your favorite character in literature? I don't think I could possible pick just one, but if I had to it would be Winnie the Pooh. :)

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    1. oh yes, definitely! Winnie the Pooh's PACKED with loveliness.

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    2. Oh yes! Winnie's absolutely packed with loveliness!

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  20. now i am going to have to stay awake and decide what characters are most meaningful to me----thanks for the question!

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  21. I do hear the "don't make a character" often, but I'm not sure if I know any writers that do that. I try not to as well. :)

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  22. You did mine, Miss Haversham! I am going to go reread that book~
    I remember reading it in high school. I had to do a project and chose this character. She always fascinated me~ Great C post!

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  23. I can't pick just one favorite and I definitely count Scout (did I rhyme) among my top ten. I fell in love with Ignatius J Reilly and I love (or love to hate) Tom Ripley. Now that is a diversified list. I have so many more, but you only asked for one.

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    1. Thanks Lynn, hope you're still awake. Me neither, Libby. Hee, Ella - great minds think alike. And Melissa those two are diversified (I forgot about Tom Ripley - now HE'S deep)

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  24. You know, no one has ever really said that to me, but I did have a beta reader ask me if one of the characters was based on her. She wasn't. It was awkward...

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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    1. hmmm, yes. Awkward (as the Queen says LOL)

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