Memorable characters–whether you hate them or love them, the best characters are the ones that stick in your mind. They’re the ones you walk away from a book, or movie, wondering what happens to them next.
But what is it about them that makes them memorable characters?
For me, it’s a variety of things:
- They must arouse my emotions. In other words, I need to either love them or hate them. There is no in between. Or I need to love to hate them (or hate to love them). A good example of this is Kylo Ren from the latest Star Wars movies. There is a part of me that hopes he will turn good, but there’s another part of me that loves to hate him. I have the same reaction to him as I did to Darth Vader.
- Relatable. If it’s a hero/heroine, they must be relatable. Whether I feel sorry for their plight, I’m rooting for them, or I fantasize about leading their life, I want to be on their side. This is similar to rousing my emotions, but some characters, like the villains, I don’t need to relate to them in order for them to be memorable. However, if I don’t relate to the protagonist, I need, at the very least, to relate to their plight.For instance, my daughter and I watched Edward Scissorhands the other day. He’s a fantastical character. While I couldn’t relate to being a robot, the isolation, the feeling of being different, and the experience of being bullied is something I could relate to. I don’t think I’m alone in this either.
- Intelligence. For the most part, to be a memorable character, they need to be intelligent. There are exceptions (Lenny from Of Mice and Men), but these are few and far between for me. If the hero/heroine does something stupid, there must be a reason for it. All of us make stupid mistakes regardless of our intelligence. Unfortunately, we realize it after the fact. However, someone who has more hair than brains as the protagonist/villain doesn’t work for me. They don’t have to be a genius, although evil geniuses can be fun. Run of the mill intelligence works, too.
- Funny. While it’s not necessary for a character to be funny for them to be memorable, it certainly is one way to attain that. Often the comic relief is not the protagonist, but, rather, a sidekick. A good example of this is Bottom from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While he’s not the main character, he’s certainly memorable because he’s funny.
I am sure the list is longer than this, but in truth, these are the basic traits for me that make memorable characters.
Are there any traits that I’ve missed? If so, please let me know.