Sunday, 30 June 2013


I've been thinking about characterisation a lot at the moment.

At first it was just for my antagonists - wanting to make them three-dimensional, characters with motivations and justifications rather than moustache-twirling cackling villains tying distressed damsels to train tracks.  I wanted them to believe they were protagonists of their own story - and I wanted the reader to see it too.

Then I started considering my protagonists too.  Were they complex, multi-layered characters or just vehicles for driving the plot along?  The last thing I want to have my main characters be is either dull or mary sues.

And I want them to be likeable.  I read an interesting blog post the other day on 'The Bookshelf Muse', where one of the points was about this.  As they said, who wants to read a story about someone they dislike?  I know I never do, and have often abandoned reading a book part-way through for precisely this reason, no matter how interesting the plot could be.

But frustratingly, I'm not sure I'm the best person to judge this - or at least, not on my own.  I know the characters I want to write - they are clear in my head, often to the smallest point of their personality.  But does that translate to the page?  Because when I re-read it, I could just be seeing what I meant to write and using my own knowledge of the character to fill in the gaps.

And what about personal taste?  Not everyone has the same favourite characters in a book or film or tv show.  Who's to say that a character I love (either one of my own or from someone else's work) isn't loathed by others?  I know you can't please everyone but is there a way to please the majority?

One way I've come to think of it is by way of a famous example: the Harry Potter series.  I have never heard anyone say they detest the character of Harry - but neither have I heard anyone say he's their favourite.  Naturally there will be people who hold these opinions but it doesn't seem to be a common view.  Does this therefore mean that main characters are better when they're less extreme, to lessen the risk of turning off potential readers?  Or are people simply drawn to those more on the periphery, because an element of mystery remains?  Or is it another reason entirely?

Or maybe I'm just thinking about this too much and giving myself a brain-ache.

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