What a Character

Scarlett O’Hara, Harry Potter, Philip Marlowe, Jane Eyre, Mr. Darcy . . . All are memorable fictional characters, so familiar to us that one might know who they are without even having read the books that made them famous. I have a preference for character-driven novels and have met many intriguing personalities through my readings.

I think if I were to be the heroine in a novel, it would probably put the reader to sleep. I’ve led a much too normal life; I’ve never married a guy who was already married to a lunatic he kept hidden in the attic, made a dress out of drapes because I was too poor to buy one, or struggled with my identity as a wizard. But even more than the hurdles that fictional folks have to surmount, they need personal attributes that make them intriguing, and they certainly don’t have to be likable. When I read Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, I was so angry at the weak-willed hero, Philip Carey, that I wanted to reach into the pages and bitch slap some sense into him. But that’s what well-written characters can do–elicit a strong emotional reaction from the reader.

Here are some of my favorite fictional characters: mystery writer Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon (a-troubled-recovering-alcoholic-park-ranger-murder-solver), Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch (a-troubled-Vietnam-vet-turned-cop-semi-alcoholic-insomniac), Diana Gabaldon’s Claire Fraser (stubborn-time-traveling-sometime-bigamist-war-nurse-healer), and Adriana Trigiani’s Ave Maria Mulligan Machesney (a-one-time-longtime-single-insecure-wise-cracking-small-town-Italian-American-Southerner). Though I wouldn’t necessarily want to hang with these people in real life, they make for some fascinating reading.


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