Unforgettable Characters

I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning finishing off the latest book in a quasi-series I love.  I call it quasi, because not all of the books are connected by a story line.  They all focus, however, on a single main character.  This isn’t unusual for an author: Tom Clancy has his Jack Ryan, Lee Child has Jack Reacher (Jack seems to be a common name 😛 ), James Patterson has Alex Cross, etc.  As I finished reading the book (already ready for the next one to come out) I wondered if I will ever have a character as memorable as Aloysius Pendergast.  Those of you who have read Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s co-authored Pendergast books will understand what I mean right away.  Those of you who haven’t, are missing out on a great character.

I started trying to figure out what makes a memorable character.  There are plenty of characters who are memorable as a part of their stories, but what characters would be memorable WITHOUT their stories?  This seems an odd question, because they wouldn’t exist outside of their stories and books, but these are the strange things I think about.  So I started thinking about it like this: if all you had was a character description – physical appearances, life background, character traits, abilities, job description, etc. – in the absence of the activities of even their first book, would they be an interesting character.  For example, Arthur Dent would not be an interesting or memorable character in absence of the activities of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  There would be nothing terribly exciting about Katniss Everdeen had she not ended up as a participant of the “Hunger Games”.  I am not trying to pick on these characters: in fact, I specifically picked some of my favorite books here.  If I were to just read a character description of Aloysius Pendergast, however, I would find him fascinating.  I even found myself telling a character in the book, last night, “Well, if you knew Pendergast like I do…”.

I love my characters in my book.  I am committed to them and, obviously, very invested in their lives.  However, I have not created a character, yet, that I feel would be one of those memorable, unforgettable characters.  I can only hope to someday have as interesting, fascinating and memorable characters as I find Pendergast.

Who do you consider to be an unforgettable character (remember: try to separate the character from the story.  What character would you love to sit down and talk to?)?  And for those of you who write, do you have a memorable character like this?


– S.D. Bullard


~ by sdbullard on January 2, 2013.

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