I wanted to explore what makes a memorable character. I know I've written on this topic before, but I've been thinking a lot about it recently.
What is it about some people in books that captures our fancy and makes them come alive in our imaginations?
Is it their name? Their personality? The way they speak?
Whatever it is, there is no doubt that the characters are what makes your story. You might have a brilliant plot, carefully built and written, but if you do not have people, you have nothing.
I know I have written time and again about how much I love Charles Dickens' writing. I truly believe that his greatness lay in his characters, not only his intricate plots.
Charles Dickens did not only pay attention to and cultivate his main characters. Of course our protagonists must be strongly portrayed, but it is the side-line characters that make the novel.
No one can forget the poor law-clerk, Guppy, in Bleak House, or the nonsensical but loveable Edmond Sparkler in Little Dorrit. It is not easy to get the evilly debonair Rigaud out of your imagination long after you have put down the book, or to stop thinking about jolly Mr. Pickwick and his travelling companions.
So in the remainder of this post I will discuss how to build unforgettable people for your books.
Step One: Pick a personality-- What is it about your character that makes him who he is? Is he a complex person or a simple guy? Is he ridiculously melancholy or the life of the party?
Make your decision and build off of it.
Step Two: Give him a touch of oddity-- Something that makes this character stand out from all the others. It could be the way he pronounces certain things, (Like Dickens' Samuel Weller who switches around his "w"s and "v"s. :) or the way he walks, or something he loves doing that is just a little strange.
Step Three: Choose a name-- I have always found the phone-book to be helpful in this step. Flip through and find random names. I've come up with a good many strange ones in this way that I might never have thought up before, like the name I've reserved for some selfish banker someday somewhere: Bardwulf Becker. :)
I think naming characters is one of my better points. I love choosing the perfect name for my people. One of the servants in an unfinished novel was named Essie Doris after a street in our town. Another is the wild Ann Company whose father, Flounder, named her so that it would look clever and business-like on a library card. (Flounder & Co.) I like stretching to the limits on crazy names for people.
So those are the three main steps I can think of right now, and as I'm out of time I will let you all suggest anything I have missed. :) What sorts of tips do *you* have for creating characters?