Sunday, August 15, 2010

How do you like your characters?

A strong spirit. A desire to do right. A sense of humor.
- Juju, Tales of Whimsy

What are the qualities you look for in a main character? Do words like "strong," "funny," "relatable," "sweet," "smart," "sexy" and "well-developed" come to mind?
A word that I use a lot in my reviews is well-rounded. That's not to say that well-rounded characters go from one end of the spectrum to the other behaviorally, but it does mean that the characters seem to have enough development to make them real. Likewise, characters that are predominantly good and sweet are not necessarily flat. I was just thinking about it right now, that in all 5 books, I do not remember one time that titular character Percy Jackson did or said anything intentionally mean, hurtful, or selfish. Does that make him a flat, Gary-Stu character? NO FREAKING WAY! But he has enough personality to make him jump off the pages, to make him seem like he could be real. And that's what a well-rounded character is to me. They don't always have to undergo a character change, but they do have enough personality to allow them a wide range of emotional depth.

Who likes to laugh? It's my thought that humor is not only a great quality, it's necessary to a story. Not every character needs to be a clown, but the best books or series employ clowns. Although they are supporting characters, I am glad that Rowling created Fred and George Weasley. The HP stories just wouldn't be the same without them. And to those who have read the Mortal Instruments - I think that as entertaining as the series is, it would be missing something without Magnus Bane. This reviewer just loves to laugh - how about you?

When it comes to love interests (uh-oh, here we go!) I prefer the sweet, "gentle-warrior" guys who can be both sweet and affectionate and tough as nails if called to be. I'm glad there is a place in young adult literature for kindhearted, sweet boys as the love interest. Perhaps this is why Peeta is so lovable and has legions of devoted fans? You just don't get much more adorable than Peeta.
Wait, I'm being unfair! You know, while Gale gives off somewhat more of a tough-guy vibe, he too is kindhearted. Yay, Gale! AND YAY FOR EIGHT DAYS LEFT!

Here's what some of you said about characters:

Jillian from Reading Labyrinth:
"If I don’t like the main character/narrator, I will almost always be disengaged from the story" - I agree with this wholeheartedly because I have disliked novels because of the main character/narrator before. One good example: Tally from the Uglies trilogy. While I liked her in the first book, she went downhill in the second and third books where I felt she wasn't learning enough from her mistakes (and her personality went downhill as well).

Like Jillian, I love it when characters seem to grow, either over the course of the single book or over the course of the series (if there is one). The protagonist of a story may not be real, but he or she still has the power to influence and inspire, and I love being inspired.

Jillian continued:
Also, there are times when I don't know why I like a character. I think, though, that we're all inherently drawn to things we see in ourselves -- such as humor/wit, intelligence, compassion, etc. -- and our favorite characters lists somehow reflect that (even if *we ourselves* may not always see 'the why')

Shy from The Bibliophile's Journal:
I totally need to be able to relate to the main character (especially) in the book and I'd totally feel not satisfied with the book if I feel like the character is too foreign to me.

It's cute and fun to read about characters who are different from ourselves, but if the character is too over-the-top or too bad or too good or too anything, those differences start working against them. Relatability is a necessity in reading, or at least that's the message I'm getting. Great point, Shy!

Darlyn from Darlyn & Books:
I find that relatable and smart characters always work for me.

Jenny from Jenny Loves to Read:
For me a great character depends on the story as well as the characters qualities. The character could be great but if the story is a stinker, I don't care how much I like the character, I'm outta there. So my "ideal" character would be brave, funny, sarcastic, thoughtful of others....someone I would have a cup of coffee or a beer with. I think that answers the question :)
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