Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Likeable Characters

Last week I posted about dream-BFF Marian Keye's new book, The Brightest Star in the Sky (you know what, I'm going to just go ahead and presume to call Marian my BFF because I feel certain she would agree we were BFFs if she knew), and how when it ended, I was sad and regretted it. And then yesterday I posted about why--partly because of the amazing character portraits she painted.

Today we'll talk about likeable characters. I actually got this idea from a post Jessica Faust at Bookends did about likeable characters in literature. I think most of us will agree that likeable characters have the following traits:
  • Strength
  • Cleverness
  • Dedication
  • Charisma
  • Humor
But those don't always make a character likeable. For me, I want a stand-out character, one who is strong in a way that jumps off the page. Maybe this means the character is slightly outrageous, or strong in his or her convictions. In the story I'm working on now, I have a character who started out as a peripheral friend to my protagonist. He served as the token unattainable, attractive male friend. Then he started saying the most unbelievable things! Even thought I had intended him to be a rapscallion, he was hugely likeable. And I went whoa, this guy is much more central a character than I originally thought. So, I gave him a subplot to work out for himself and I'm really pleased with the results. I knew he had a heart of gold in there somewhere.

And that seems to be what makes a character likeable no matter what the circumstance. If he overcomes a distasteful start-- in other words, overcomes his humanity, then he can really stand out. I want redemption of the sprint!

Some of the likeable characters discussed in Jessica Faust's post included Scarlett O'Hara, was a disgustingly selfish snot, but likeable because she had some really amazing reserves of strength that reminded me of a southern Energizer Bunny.

Someone else mentioned Humbert Humbert from Lolita. Bleeech. He is so repulsive in every way that I couldn't even finish the book. NO THANK YOU. I saw no likeability there unless he overcame himself, and I don't think he did.

Hannibal Lector. I like him. But then, I find cannibalism funny. He's also slightly redeemable--he seems to respect Clarice Starling and lets her go. I like him for that.

And the picture above of Ferris Bueller--the ultimate likeable character, one whose story revolved around being likeable. His own sister had her own subplot just to deal with his likeability. Was it the way he lip synced Danke Shoen on top of the float in downtown Chicago? Was it his ability to get out of anything? His sheer charm? All of the above.

Who are your likable characters and why?


Travener said...

Bertie Wooster, because he's so clueless. Jeeves, because he's so effortlessly intelligent and resourceful.

Melissa Marsh said...

I'm reading Stieg Larsson's novel, The Girl who Played with Fire. This is the second in his three-book series that started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The main character, Lisbeth Salander, is so unique, so compelling, and so utterly fascinating that she is very likeable. She's not exactly a nice person, per se, but she has her morals and she sticks to them. One of the most fascinating characters I've ever run across.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

lol, I totally wrote about this today too and I didn't even see the Jessica Faust post. We are sharing a wavelength. :)

Sierra Godfrey said...

hey Roni! How funny.
Melissa--I just started reading the first one, the Dragon Tatoo one.
Travener, Bertie Wooster is one of the greatest likeables, good one.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I hopped over from Julie's blog. I see a lot of familiar faces here! ;-)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Hi Shannon and thanks for commenting!

Dawn Simon said...

I think Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES is a great character. She's strong, she's charismatic, and she's really interesting. I will always love Mia in THE PRINCESS DIARIES. She's wonderful.

Meghan Ward said...

I don't know why I'm thinking of Gogol in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake. I think because he's so smart, and I love smart characters. I also love Cal from East of Eden, because he's so flawed.

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