1. JaimeL
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    JaimeL Member

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    Creating a memorable character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JaimeL, Sep 4, 2015.

    I'm about 20,000 words into my current novel, and reviewing it, I realised that I don't have any character that would seriously stand out or be remembered after the book was finished being read. Now I know that this wouldn't matter if I had an incredible story that people raved over, but I was interested in seeing what people would classify as traits of a memorable/interesting character?

    I would say that a character with interesting/unique flaws, someone who was strong in the context of what was happening while being relatable to the reader (maybe in terms of selfishness etc.), or my own personal favourite, a 'villian'/'bad guy' that ends up a favourite character due to his/her personality/beliefs, would be a lot more intriguing than a 'stock' character, what do you think?
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Someone with their own voice. They don't have to be particularly brave or clever or unusual. If they have a unique voice that makes me feel like I know them, like we're sitting in a room together and they're telling me anecdotes, I will love and remember them.

    The lovable-villain thing doesn't work for me at all. I have never got the Snape love
    not getting your childhood crush does NOT excuse an adult bullying 11 year old children
    or the Draco-worship.
    if I could grow up surrounded by racism and not become a racist myself, what's his excuse for wanting muggles and 'mudbloods' to die?
    If I'm supposed to find a 'bad guy' sympathetic, he'd better have damn good reasons for being bad.
     
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  3. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    :eek:
     
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  4. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    For me, if the character is not cliched (i.e. a stock character, like you said), it's much more likely I'll remember them. In the book I'm reading now, the protagonist is utterly forgettable, and so is his love interest, 'cause they're not just cliched, but don't really seem to have distinct personalities, quirks, likes and dislikes etc. There's a third character in their gang, a moody, funny, fashionable, no-nonsense mathematician that I find most interesting of them all, but of course he gets the least amount of page time. :wtf: Anyway, I like how he's not your stereotypical "nerd," plus he's got a heart-wrenching back story (his family thinks he's on a pray-the-gay-away camp instead of a prep camp for brainiacs), and how he doesn't really give a shit what others think of him, which is something I admire in a character/person. All that makes me remember him better than the rest.

    I can still remember the characters in Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy even though it's been years since I read it, and I've only read it once. They had big personalities, quirks, clear goals, shocking backstories, relatable flaws, and even their voices were distuinguishable. This is not to say an average joe or jane couldn't be memorable, but a bit of tragedy thrown in the mix with offbeat personalities does help.

    Of course, sometimes the protagonist is a blank slate on purpose (think Bella and Anastasia). Sometimes they're way too super at everything which makes them boring, to me anyway (like Honor Harrington, and the lesser known Torin Kerr from Tanya Huff's Valor series). In some ways all of these are memorable to me, I can remember they bored me, but I can't quite remember what the characters were about, how they spoke, what they liked, even how they looked, so in this sense I'd call them unmemorable.

    I guess this is pretty subjective, though. You write what you are interested in. If lots of beta readers call your characters unmemorable, perhaps then you do have a problem. Get a second opinion if you're unsure.
     
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  5. JaimeL
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    JaimeL Member

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    I hate HP so I can't really comment on that situation (although I will say I find Snape more interesting BECAUSE he's a bully, not a knight in shining armour, they're not real people so I don't care about a character's morality much, more how interesting they are, although I hate characters who are bad because they're crazy/evil).

    When I say lovable-villain I don't mean an evil character with likeable traits, I mean someone who comes across as evil/wrong at the start, who's viewed as a villain but is actually fighting for a (seemingly) just cause despite committing despicable acts (Jaime Lannister/Female-Colossal-Armored Titan).
     
  6. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    You want a, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" type of character. The fact is though, to get to that situation there has to be something fundamentally wrong with your character ie. unable to fully communicate what they're doing, unwilling to let the protag know whats the situation is even if it might help, or too proud to let anyone help at all.

    What i'd do is find your main flaw with this character and then build from there.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That pretty much describes Snape. Except it didn't work for me, because his motivations for fighting for the just cause weren't strong enough to convince me he wasn't just a nasty little bully. And I'm never going to like a character who's a bully!
     
  8. Kata_Misashi
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    Kata_Misashi Active Member

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    Jaime and Chain are speakin' my language! Pure evil villains or villains out to destroy the world are cliché and boring! A memorable character is the character who way of being a villain/hero is non-linear. "I will defeat you evil-doer!" or "I will rule the world!" is too mainstream. Why is this character so good or why is character evil? Life isn't black and white so why should a story be. Not to brag but that's why I love the villain (if you can call him that) in my story. ;3
     
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  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Now I'm trying to think of the villains I've found most memorable. In Harry Potter, I remember Delores Umbridge much more vividly than Voldemort or Snape. She was just evil.

    The one I hear most about is Prince Joffrey. I don't watch Game of Thrones but my understanding is that he's just a little shit too, with no redeeming features.

    Why can't I think of other famous villains?? I haven't been reading enough lately, clearly.
     
  10. J. Blake
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    J. Blake Member

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    One of the main things I do before writing a serious story is I create "character journals". These are just entries where I'm pretending to be one of the main cast of my characters. So, for example, if I'm writing about a down-south fireman called Guy Taylor, it might sound like:

    "Been a long time since I put a fire out like the one off 97 a few weeks back. I've been here for a long time, sure as hell seen my fair share of fires, but not one like that. It's fires like that that remind me why I became a fireman. I remember when I was a kid ..."

    Etc. etc. The important thing is to just sort of ease up and let your character talk. Usually when I do this exercise I find that the character naturally takes on a sort of voice that makes me know "Yup, that's them." and I feel more comfortable when I write them, now that I've sort of walked a bit in their shoes. It's also a great way to create backstory and add a little depth.


    Hope that helps.
     
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  11. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    When someone says this, I start to wonder if they have a definitive protagonist. Or if they are using omnipotent POV, but spending too much time with side and supporting characters. Or did you just pick the wrong protagonist?
     
  12. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    That's exactly why I love him! He is a bully (well, he was in Slytherin, after all) but he has a significant amount of good inside him. He's not just black or white; he's totally grey, really, but his true love is what keeps his good side alive. I think that's what makes him interesting.
    But to be honest, the reason why I love him so much is really
    the Alan Rickman's performance. :love: I watched the 1st part before I read a book and I totally fell in love with him. :D
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting characters, flawed characters, relatable characters aren't memorable. It's what they do that makes them memorable, at least for me.

    Yes, those other elements count but actions are the main driver.
     
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  14. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Draco was a missed opportunity for the 'redeemed bully shows that not all Slythrins=Voldemort'. But Snape?

    That's his entire character! That's the whole point of his character. He's supposed to be a complete ass, a pathetic man who bullies a child for the crimes of his parents (and James was a bit of an ass himself in the flashbacks.) In a way, he's the person Harry would want to avoid becoming if he ever found himself mentoring the child of someone he hated. Be it Draco's child or Dudley's child, Harry would want to make sure he never exacts his vindictive grudge out on a kid whose crime was simply being the spawn of his childhood bully. And sadly, there are actually people in real life who are just like Snape, exacting petty vengeance on the child/children of his/her former bullies.

    He's supposed to be pathetic. He's supposed to be this miserable potions master who never really got over his grudge against James and his crush on Lily. That's why he's so memorable to me, more than Dumbledore. If he were just the Slytherin version of Dumbledore, willing to help Harry out in any way (even going as far as brewing up potions for him), he'd be a pretty boring character. The books needed someone to counter Dumbledore, and that someone was Snape. Does that mean we should be happy when he insults and belittles Harry for the tenth-millionth time? Of course not, we're not supposed to root for him.

    That said, in my personal view, some like and sympathize with Snape because I think they operate on the notion that even monsters weren't born evil, they were made that way. Snape's past and his actions, while inexcusable (Calling your girlfriend your universe's equivalent of the N-word is not a great flirting line, btw. And hoping your childhood bully and his kid dies? Not cool, bro.) we can, at least, understand what makes his mind tick. Remember, we all see ourselves as the hero of our own narrative. Snape saw himself as some sort of tragic hero/villain/whatever in his own narrative. As Ivana said, there was some good in him, even if it were sort of twisted up in this mangled ball of sad, thorny...stuff. Even if it only made sense to him.

    To me, that's what makes Snape so memorable. He's pathetic, he really is, but he feels real. You can find someone in the real world that's exactly like Snape.

    Ah, sorry for the long rant. :D Just needed to get my two shillings out.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
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  15. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    @Link the Writer I don't disagree with most of what you said but I don't think you understood my point. I can't get behind all the people that find him some kind of romantic hero or think he's tragic (not pathetic) and completely redeemed of all he did because he once loved a girl. I agree with you that he's pathetic, vindictive, and everything else you said - what I can't agree with is the people who hero-worship him!
     
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  16. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Tenderiser @Link the Writer Sounds good to me.

    I love villain protagonists (Dexter Morgan, Light Yagami, Michael Corleone, Tyler Durden, Walter White), but I don't like it when people describe them as heroes.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2015
  17. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Regarding Snape, he did have a lot of characteristics of a hero. Don't forget that he was extremely brave (even Harry at the end says to his son that Snape was one of the bravest men he knew) and he was very skillful (he managed to play a double-agent role for years, managing to deceive Voldemort and hide his true intentions from him). I wouldn't exactly call him pathetic ;)
    Definitely, and I think that's why Harry named his son Albus Severus. :)
     
  18. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If I had to pick one trait for any character that will make that character memorable, it's a sense of humour. I don't know why it's so important, but it certainly is to me.

    This can apply to good guy, bad guy, sidekick, whatever. I'll remember a character who makes me laugh or smile.
     
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