Sunday, March 2, 2014

Creating Memorable Characters

One of the nicer rejections I received praised my writing ability but had some issues with my characters.  The publisher said: "...It's a good voice -- as I said, Mr. Voigts is a good writer. But the ms would be a lot better if the characters were more strongly differentiated." I know some books are plot driven and some character driven, but when a work gets turned down because the characters start sounding alike something needs to be done. 

Looking back over memorable books, the characters come first to mind. To name some classics here is a list. I think most people would be hard pressed to tell  the plot of all these books, but the characters easily come to mind.

Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby, F. Scot Fitzgerald)
Sherlock Holmes (The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett)
Tarzan (Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs)
Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell)
Harry Potter (Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone, J. K. Rowling)
Willie Wonka (Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl)
Tom Sawyer (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain)
Dracula (Dracula, Bram Stoker)
The Artful Dodger (Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens)

Over the next few weeks I will look at characterization, how to improve the players in our books, some theories and perhaps invent some new approaches. Maybe we'll unlock the secret of creating memorable characters.