Characters – Who Do You Love?


Because I’m a writer, I think about writing technique and writing components and writing style and writing voice (the subject of my last Rewrite, Reword, Rework writing-tips post). One of the “components” of fiction, of course, is characters.

As I wrote my review yesterday of Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand, I once again thought about characters and what makes readers love them—or at least like them enough to read their entire story.

I suspect characters in novels, like real people, will draw those to them who admire them or connect with them or sympathize with them. Yet occasionally, along comes a truly charismatic person who seems to draw people to him from all walks of life.

A friend of mine is reading a biography of Benjamin Franklin filled with primary sources—letters he wrote and letters he received. It seems good ol’ kite-flying Ben was more than a statesman, more than an inventor. He was a charismatic individual others wanted to be around, whether those “others” were in England or France or back home in America.

So here’s the connection: might there not be characters who draw crowds the same way Ben Franklin did? Or the way, apparently, LeBron James does today?

Same friend asked me what the big deal was with LeBron James that he would merit an hour show to announce where he was going to play basketball. Charisma, I said. Or charm. He has a way of wooing reporters to his side (referees, apparently, too).

Charisma might be different than charm, or maybe that’s just in my mind. But again, the point here is that some characters could foreseeably be the kind that inspire devotion, couldn’t they? I’m not talking about a niche group of devotees, either.

Hans Solo is an example of the kind of character I’m referring to. Or how about Magnum from TV’s Magnum, P. I.

Who in books has that kind of charisma? I think of my favorites and I’d have to say, those stories don’t have charismatic characters. At least not as protagonists.

Aslan is charismatic in the Narnia books. Gandalf, too, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But Harry Potter? Though he was a nice boy, he wasn’t the driving force, the compelling reason I wanted to keep reading those books.

So how important is a character readers love? I think it might be an important enough question for me to poll you all and see what you think. Thanks in advance for your participation. 😀 Feel free to leave comments as well. The more I hear what others think, the more I learn about crafting characters.

Published in: on July 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm  Comments (16)  
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