Friday, May 29, 2015

Armchair BEA 2015: Character Chatter

For me, the most important components of a book are the characters. Even more than the plot and the writing, a book is made memorable by the characters created.

But what makes a good main character?

Obviously, a character needs to be fully developed. There are many plot heavy books that skip over this aspect, and they may be entertaining, but they are seldom great works of literature. When I read a book, I want to read about a real person. May because a character is fictional doesn't mean that they shouldn't have a full life. Not only do I look for back story but motivations, values, quirks, flaws, etc. And these all have to be the driving force behind every action the character takes.

There also needs to be consistency throughout the story. I really hate it when a character does something or behaves on a way that doesn't for who they have been up to that point. An example of this is in Brandon Sanderson's The Final Empire. From the beginning of the novel, Vin is painted as a suspicious, guarded, distrustful, frightened girl who constantly questions people's motives and trustworthiness. Yet, she quickly ends up confiding in and believing one of the people who least deserves her confidence. Because it was so out of character, it tainted the rest of the relationship.

Often times I feel that the most important and realistic parts of a character are his or her weaknesses. Honestly, I tire of moral heroes who do good just for the sake of being virtuous and have no other motivation. Rather, I like protagonists that are flawed and make bad choices and are slightly selfish. A really great example of this is Harry Potter. He is definitely no perfect hero as he's partially motivated by selfishness and vengeance. Moreover, his pride often leads him into danger. Yet, this makes him much more relatable.

He's only one of the amazing characters in the series, too, and Rowling took the time to craft each one as an individual. Stories need varied characters. Often, it seems that authors have a dividing line with morally "good" characters on one side and villains on the other. This isn't true to life, though, and any novel that categorizes that way fails as far as characterizing is concerned.

All in all, I prefer characters that are the most like real people - beautiful and ugly simultaneously, never purely good or evil. Complexity and ambivalence are  what makes a good character.

Those are a few of my thoughts on what makes a good character. What do you look for? 

If you want to see my Armchair BEA intro post, click here

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Happy reading!