July 1, 2014

"A character is a caricature..."

"When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature."

 Characters Fascinate Me.

That is the simplest way to put it.  As long as I can remember, I have been entranced with characters of all kinds.  Each kind of character speaks my language and I typically either hate them or love them, as I should.  If I am not sighing with happiness, or shaking with rage by the time the book ends, the author has failed to introduce me to real, living people.  And real, living people are much more interesting than dry, cliché characters, right?

I have found that there are four kinds of characters:

1. The Hero/Heroine Character:

The Hero of any story doesn’t have to be of noble blood, nor wear armor or a crown. This character must be seeking to do the best he/she can to protect those they love, to pursue what they believe to be right, and to, above all, have fault. (I will discuss fault more later...)

2. The Villain/Antagonist Character:

The Villain of most stories is extremely wicked, and deplorable.  I can attest that those often make the most memorable “bad guys”, however I can also claim that the antagonistic character is merely the one who, sometimes unknowingly, gets in the way of what the hero wants.  This character must have fault and weakness, but they must also have a goal and something they seek to attain or achieve.  This perhaps, is the most interesting character, and original.

3. The Supporting Character:

The Supporting Character is really a hero/heroin or a villain/antagonist.  These are the characters that in some cases would go to the ends of the world with the main character, out of love or fear, or some other reason.  These are also the characters that would betray the main character, out of love or fear, etc.  The Supporting Character is the one with often the most influence in the story, if you think about it.  They must have fault and motive.  Lots of motive.

And last but not least,
4. The Eccentric Character

The Eccentric Character, my friends, is the character that doesn’t fit snuggly in any of the other three categories; and when you close the book, you can remember he/she as well as you can your sibling.   The faults, (which they must have), and the quirks, (which is mandatory as well), are as real to you as your closest friend’s.  This character is often a supporting character, but is prone to be a tad odd.

 Before we press on too far ahead, let me say a word about Fault.  Fault is a necessary ingredient to make a character alive, because unless stated otherwise, characters must be human, and what is a human without fault?  Some faults can be huge, red flags that make us shy away or feel uncomfortable, others can be small, somewhat petty things.  Whatever the size or depth of the fault, it must, must, must be there.  It must.

Here are a few examples of my favorite characters placed into one of these four characters.

The Hero/Heroine Character:

Aragorn from Lord of the Rings

“If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. ”

That nearly sums up his Hero-ness all by himself.  But where is his fault?  If you read this and cry, “Aragorn has NO fault!” I stand to correct you.  Aragorn has the fault of doubt.  He doubts his ability to be king and rise up to that place of leadership.  His lack of self-confidence is his fault, however, he does learn to overcome it. (One of the best kinds of heroes!)

Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre

“I am not an angel," I asserted; "and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself.”

Jane Eyre is a very moral and upright girl who struggles to find her place in the world, where she does not seem to be wanted.  She sticks very strongly to her beliefs and upholds her virtues.  Her fault is that she can be rather stubborn and quick-tempered, but it is usually only when she feels threatened on the ground of her virtues.

The Villain/Antagonist Character:

Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice

"Where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation."

I risk death to suggest that Mr. Darcy is the antagonist of Pride and Prejudice.  His fault is vanity and slight conceit, (why not just some it up as pride?).  He is not wicked, but he interferes with the goals and happiness of Protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet.  But fear not, Jane Austen Fans, Mr. Darcy redeems himself and by the end of the book sheds his cloak as Antagonist.

Empress Jadis (AKA The White Witch) from The Chronicles of Narnia

"You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I. The weight of the world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny."

Here is a good old stereotypical villain for you.  Her fault is totally pride, murder and witchy-ness.  Yeah, villain!

The Supporting Character

Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

Sydney Carton is the protagonist supporting character.  He would give everything he has for love, and for a love that would never be his.  He is the nobility and sacrifice of the book and I love him for it.  His fault?  He drinks a bit excessively.  That’s all I could come up with...

Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings

“Come, Mr. Frodo!' he cried. 'I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

I know I already used a Lord of the Rings Character, but I couldn’t resist.  Sam is the best supporting character you could ask for.  He never once complained, he never once gave thought of going back, but he pushed on until the end.  He was amazing.  Samwise has a fault?  Well, he does listen under the eaves.  I guess he got punished enough for that!

The Eccentric

Amy March from Little Women

“Butter! Oh isn’t butter divinity? Oh God thank you for this breakfast!”

Amy is the youngest of the four March girls, and perhaps the queerest.  She is a supporting protagonist character that gets the Eccentric award.  She is a bit vain.

Colin Craven from The Secret Garden

“She is my mother,” said Colin complainingly. “I don’t see why she died. Sometimes I hate her for doing it.”
Colin is convinced, absolutely convinced that he is going to die.  For nearly the entirety of his appearances in the book, he is a selfish, sickly little lord who demands of everyone that he must have his way and that he will not live to go bald.  Can you guess his fault?

So, those are my four Character Types.  What characters do you love and how do they fit into these sections?  Hint: Some characters can fit into more than one section. 

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