Would you like to create memorable characters? What author doesn’t, right? Where do great characters come from? Are they great because of what they do or what they say? Or does it have to be both
Picture a scenario with me. Someone walks into a store and asks, “May I see what you have in a nice .30 caliber hollow point?” If this character is an infantry soldier or big game hunter, and if he is looking to practice marksmanship or put meat in the freezer, you wouldn’t think twice about him buying bullets and shooting something.
But what if it’s 74-year-old Sister Mary-Margaret, who’s had enough of absentee dads breeding latch-key kids who are condemned to raise themselves? Now THAT’S someone I want to know more about!
What makes Victor ‘Pug’ Henry of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance so interesting? Pug is my favorite character in one of my favorite sagas. Overall, he doesn’t come off as a wholly sympathetic or even heroic figure. Rather, Victor is a flawed man with professional integrity and a knack for being in the right place at critical times. President Franklin D. Roosevelt praises his eye for detail, and no one questions his dedication as an officer. Yet he himself admits that he’s been a mediocre husband and a rather poor and distant father. And yet, through his eyes we see the major characters of World War II up close and personal. And he is a sharp, analytical observer.
He became a classic and favored character because the resolution of his story came with his realization that, of all the professional calls he got right, as a husband and father, he had been wrong all along. He turned out to be different than who he, and I, thought he was.
In case you haven’t heard or read it, let me restate the classic rule of character development:
No hero should be without a flaw, no villain without a bit of good in his heart.
But to make them memorable, each must have something in their character that is different than our expectations, and theirs.
How do You Create the Most Memorable Characters Ever?
By making them real people. Each character worthy of being in your story must be more than just a detective, financial analyst, or Navy pilot.
This distinction is key:
It’s more important that we know ‘who they are’ rather than ‘what they do for a living.’
To get the most from your main character, your main villain or hero, and every character whose role advances your story, you need to ask them (the character) some questions.
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