We sit in our favorite place with a book in order to escape for a bit from our every day routine.
Settings transport us to new regions. Plot pumps our adrenaline. But there’s one main area in storytelling where the writer has that opportunity to bond a reader with his/her tale.
And that is with the character.
Without the bonding effect, there is no reason why a reader would care less what happens to that character.
Although character and plot do go hand in hand to make for a stronger read, it’s what a writer sketches as the character’s profile that will make a lasting impression on readers.
For example, for me I bonded with Harry Potter almost instantly because I felt sorry for him. Here he was, forced to live with relatives who didn’t care for him. A cousin who wasted no extra energy to come up with ways to get Harry into trouble. The overall immediate sketch, without knowing anything else that would come down the pipeline, moved me to continue reading to find out what will become of this child.
Although his situation didn’t remotely remind me of my own childhood, it did bring up ‘bullying’ to the surface, which I’m sure many readers have had direct contact with at some point in their lives. Writers pen stories to bring some sort of a realistic backdrop in some small way that may initiate an emotion in a reader that will be long lasting.
Memorable characters should be sculpted to have their own identity apart from the secondary characters. As well, to give them that ‘realistic’ edge so a reader can identify with them.
For example, let’s take John Travolta’s character in Grease, Danny. Here’s a boy who has two sides to him: tough and tender. When he’s with his gang he’s macho Danny. When he’s with Sandy, he’s tender Danny. When these two sides meet, Danny is conflicted and torn as to which side should come out and play. I am sure many readers, men and women alike, would be able to identify with his dilemma.
So regardless what the fictional genre is, in my opinion, the writer’s passionate embrace to make sure his/her character resonates across the pages is a key factor that will make the difference whether the reader will leave with a long lasting impression, or simply read and forget the next day.
Do you agree that a fictional character is key to any book?
What book characters have left an impression on you, and why?