The Voices In My Head
“Shut up, voices, or I’ll poke you with a Q-tip again.” – source unknown
Characters are those pesky entities that many writers coexist with inside their heads. Mine can be very vocal and distracting, pulling my attention away from matters at hand with no concern for how important those matters may be. Then again, when time and circumstance allow, I can daydream for hours with them. They make long car rides enjoyable and provide a kind of company when I’m bored. Pesky though they may sometimes be, I don’t know what I’d do without them.
In every free moment, my mind will typically drift towards whatever story or characters are foremost in my mind. I spend so much time with the “voices in my head” (so affectionately dubbed), that I wonder what other people think about when their mind isn’t occupied with pressing matters. Evidently these voices are both a blessing and a curse. But on to the object of this blog entry: the characters themselves.
What makes a favorite character? My favorite character is probably Herald Alberich of Karse, from Exile’s Honor by Mercedes Lackey. He’s a strong character, steadfast in his convictions and, I’ll confess, I also love him because he’s a bit of a BAMF. He’s far from flawless, but I love him just the same. But why do I love him? In part, it’s likely because I see a part of myself in him, or at least, how I would like to see myself, or what I aspire to. Strength of conviction and strong morals are something I value a great deal. And as for being a BAMF… well, that particular acronym will never describe me (since physically, I’m a total weakling), but it sure is fun to imagine. But to extrapolate from this, looking at what makes a character a favorite is too personal to each individual to turn into a writing target.
So what makes a good character? I must admit, the voices in my head aren’t always my characters, and my stories. If I’m reading a good book, or have watched a good show or movie, those stories and characters can find their way into my consciousness too. So all picky, technical or more objective attributes aside, that is how you tell if a particular character or story is a good one; it gets inside your head and won’t go away. But what about those more objective standards?
I’ve never been one much for sticking to hard-and-fast categories for things. I do like to analyze and dissect things (not physically, just mentally), but I’m smart enough to recognize that any generalizations that result are just that – generalizations, and not rules or laws. What works for one person may not work for another. No matter what kind of rule you write, something, somewhere, will break it. Life and all the elements in it is far too complex to be captured in any paltry human rule, even when it comes to the human aspect of creativity.
In my books, a character is a good character if the reader reacts the way you want them to: hating the characters they’re supposed to hate, and loving the ones they’re supposed to love. I always think of Delores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. Do you love to hate her as much as I do? It’s in her design. We’re supposed to hate her. And it goes even further than that; we love to hate her. That’s how we know she’s a good character.
So what are your thoughts, dear readers? What do you love or hate about various characters? Who are your favorite (and least favorite) characters?