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Creating Credible Characters—Introduction

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who are your favorite fictional characters—from books, TV, or film?

I’ve had a hard time trying to narrow this down to just a couple of examples, myself. I go through whims, and a lot of it depends on if a character of someone else’s creation is currently serving as inspiration for my own stories. For example, right now one of the characters I keep returning to is Lieutenant William Bush from CS Forester’s Lieutenant Hornblower (Bush is the point of view character for the book). I especially like the way he was brought to life by Paul McGann in the A&E movies (just in case you haven’t heard me say that often enough).

Along similar lines, Captain Frederick Wentworth is my favorite of all of Jane Austen’s characters. He seems to have a more real presence, more tangible flaws than Darcy or Knightley or Edward Ferrars, more of a character arc.

When it comes to characters of more recent creation and not related to anything I’m writing, I love what the writers of LOST have done with their characters—throwing them all together in a crisis situation (plane crashing on a seemingly deserted island), then slowly, over the seasons of the show, revealing tantalizing bits of who these people were before the plane crash and how they’ve become what they are now (and might become in the future . . .). Each of the main characters is unique, distinct, because of the painstaking attention to the detail of their backstory (which ties in with the forward movement of the plot in each episode).

When it comes to my own writing, choosing a favorite character is equally if not more difficult. The hero of whatever story I’m writing at the time is my favorite ever as I, along with the heroine, fall deeper in love with him as the story unfolds.

I think I might have to say, though, that my favorite couple I’ve ever written are Hannah and Stefan. Theirs is one of two romance threads in my second manuscript, The Best Laid Plans. I’ve thought more about Hannah and Stefan since finishing that book—have actually written another fifteen to twenty thousand words after the happily-ever-after ending just to spend more time with them. I think the main reason they’re so dear to me is because out of every character I’ve ever written, Hannah is the closest to being autobiographical—though the heroine of my current contemporary romance is starting to hit uncomfortably close in a few places.

This will be a two-part series.

The first part, Creating Credible Characters (I love alliteration!), will be about our characters (duh!): where they come from, how we get to know them, and how we get them to come to life on the page.

The second part, Picking a POV, will focus on point of view: omniscient or limited; first, second, or third person; present or past tense.

So, let’s get this party started—tell us who your favorite fictional character of page or screen is (of someone else’s creation) and why. Then choose one or two of your own creation you are really proud of or you’ve really enjoyed writing and tell us about them. If you have any specific characterization-related questions, don’t forget to post those too.

  1. Tuesday, June 12, 2007 5:32 pm

    Here’s Amy Jane with the “kid” (YA?) books again.

    I like Kate (Katherine Sutten) from The Perilous Gard and Edmond, from the Chronicles of Narnia.

    So many writers seem make their girl characters abrasive tomboys or whiny. I liked how sensible and “real” Kate was.

    And when I was single my friends and I would use characters from books to describe the type of guy we were interested in, and I used Edmond– I thought he was a great example of how someone can mature and change.


  2. Tuesday, June 12, 2007 9:44 pm

    Great questions and thought starters. I love Heathcliff!!!!!!!! And I know y’all are going to whack me on the head, but I love Becky Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series, even though I despise shopping.

    As for my own, I’m with you–I love whichever character happens to be center stage at the moment. Right now I adore my villain, Khan, just because he’s casually evil.


  3. Wednesday, June 13, 2007 12:02 pm

    You know I left a totally pointless comment on your previous post which WordPress apparently decided to suck into a black hole. Oh well. Weird.

    Anyway…like you I’m going to have trouble limiting my list of favorite fictional characters…but here’s a start. 😉

    Daniel Craig as James Bond — he’s the influence for the hero of my currently neglected WIP. 😦 When I saw “Casino Royale” it was weird — like puzzle pieces falling into place. I’d struggled with really “putting a face” to my hero, but when I saw Daniel Craig he practically leaped off the screen screaming “I’m it, I’m it!” I love his portrayal of Bond because it’s such a fantastic example of a stoic “tough guy” who’s buried his emotions due to past wounds / disappointments.

    Robert Lindsay as Jericho (shocker, I know). I haven’t been able to stop thinking about his character since the series aired the last episode Sunday night. I love who he was, what he went through, and where he ended up — wonderful character arc.

    Marcus from “A Voice in the Wind” and “An Echo in the Darkness” by Francine Rivers. Fell HARD for him when I first read those novels back when they first came out. I’ve got a bit of a weakness for bad boys with hearts of gold, I guess. 😉


  4. Thursday, June 14, 2007 7:27 am

    Favorite Character: I love the characters from my favorite books (too many to list). I love them because they seem so real. They’ve got flaws, good and bad traits, they’re strong…they’re real.

    I loved my characters so much from my Abigail books that I made it into a 7 book series because I didn’t want to give them up. I love my other character (from a different idea/novel) Avrina. If I don’t love my characters I can’t write about them. It’s so important to me that they be ‘real’ and that I can feel passionate about them, that I could want to be their friend…


  5. Thursday, June 14, 2007 9:57 am

    Clair Huxtable. Contemporary, educated, well-spoken, cultured, financially comfortable, loved, loving, sexy, creative, smart, compassionate, fashionable — all the things I’d love to be. Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable doesn’t work for me completely so I’d have to pair her with someone else but then she wouldn’t be the same Clair, would she?

    I love the men and women in Francis Ray’s Garysons series. Lots of the same characteristics I noted above, both the men and women. Add in strong family ties.

    I have yet to fully flesh out one of my own but I’m working on that.


  6. Thursday, June 14, 2007 10:38 am

    Oh, Patricia, great example! I always loved Clair on the Cosby Show . . . and with as funny as Bill Cosby/Dr. Huxtable always was, I did wonder why someone like Clair would have married him. He was just lucky, I guess.


  7. Thursday, June 14, 2007 10:42 am

    From TV:

    The Doctor (Dr Who) – Ten actors have played him and the character is still going strong. He’s iconic in the UK and is one of the best realized characters. He is a universal hero, who uses brain rather than brawn to solve most things and has a deep sense of right and wrong tempered with compassion. That said, he’s a person you want as your friend and not your enemy, as many various monsters have found out over the years…he always finds a way to beat them.

    Captain Kirk – Heaven help me, I love Kirk. He’s just so all-around awesome. A leader in every sense of the word. These days it’s easy to make him out as more aggressive than he was…he was knew the time and place to use force, but more often than not used a good bluff or the talents of his crew to help him solve a problem. Best captain the Trek shows ever had or will ever have.

    Fonzie – Dear heavens, I’m warped for life since this was one of the first male role-models I saw on TV. But he was so great–a confidence, a swagger and just an all around guy. He was the big-brother we all wished we had. Also, he was cool because he used brains over brawn…if you think about it, you rarely saw Fonzie get into a fight…he used his reputation alone. Plus he got all the girls…and that time when Richie was in the hospital and he wasn’t afraid to cry or pray….


  8. Thursday, June 14, 2007 5:31 pm

    POV question: Is it advisable to write more than one first person POV in one novel? Thanks


  9. Monday, June 25, 2007 3:45 pm

    I love Jaime and Claire from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series. Neither of the characters are perfect, but Jaime is the eiptome of a gentlemen, nevermind he was born over two hundred years ago in Scotland. Claire is wise, abrasive, and smart. Gabaldon brings her characters to true life and their love for each other spans two hundred years.

    I also loved Scarlet O’Hara. For the same reasons. She wasn’t perfect, was sometimes mean, and made bad choices.

    These are the type of characters I like to read about.


  10. Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:06 pm

    What a great question! I read way too much to list my favortite characters in books, but my tv and movie time is limited, so I only spend it with Richard Castle from Castle, and Walter Bishop from Fringe, and The Doctor from Doctor Who.

    These characters are vivid and funny and very lifelike….I’d love to meet the characters (not the actors) and chat.

    Love your blog 🙂



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