Tuesday, March 31, 2009

“A realistic character taps into readers’ emotions, giving rise to empathy, resentment, and adoration.” -- Melissa Donovan in How to Create Believeable Characters.
Realistic characters don’t have to be likable to be interesting to the reader. Hannibal Lecter is often mentioned as a character who is morally corrupt, but one the reader wants to know more about. This is true because he’s a fully developed character. He’s despicable, dangerous, and evil -- and he’s interesting. I want to know what he does next, to listen to him talk about himself, to experience his verbal jousts with Agent Starling.

I’ve tried creating my own Hannibal Lecters with no success. I haven’t developed the mindset to do it. I know nothing about Thomas Hardy, but can’t imagine he has anything in common with the evil Lecter. The same is true for Tolstoy and Anna Karenina. His portrayal of a female is wonderful. I need to work harder at creating believable characters who grab the reader’s interest and make them keep reading, even if that character is someone they find repulsive.


Kimberly Zook said...

I couldn't agree more! My characters seem so shallow to me compared to the depth and complexity of others I have read in books. I think one thing that helps those writers is they use unique details to describe the character, whether it is in their actions, mannerisms, thoughts, speech, etc. It seems to all come together in one package to create an effective character, and it's something I need to work on some more!

Jim Harrington said...

Excellent comment, Kimberly. Thanks for adding this.

Melissa Donovan said...

There are lots of exercises that help you get inside the minds of your characters, even the ones who are completely your opposite. It takes some concentration though. Thanks so much for the honorable mention!