ACROSS THE SPAN of my life I have met a few people who were real characters. Though I may not have seen them for years, the simple mention of their names invokes something almost mystical.
Flesh and blood characters are the people who, even when departed from this world, are my resident consultants on human nature. Characters like Clark Dobbs fishing out the window of his pond house while watching Saturday afternoon wrestling on an ancient Philco television. Or, my Uncle Pete who, when I was a small boy, seemed to have been banished to live on his back porch with a can of Miller beer permanently attached to his non-Solitaire playing hand. These are the people about whom you don’t care if someone accuses you of embellishing their story a bit. If you paint them larger than life it is only because they deserve it.
There is much talk among writers about whether the best stories are plot driven or character driven. Educators have written to tell me boys are not drawn to character development, only action. Other sat that men only want something to blow up or someone to get blown away. It’s true that men, in general, are drawn to action but action without interesting characters quickly becomes old hat and boring.
Take away Anthony Hopkins’s 17 minutes of Oscar winning performance in Silence of the Lambs and one is left with a forgettable pedestrian horror flick. I don’t have memories of that Royal Navy officer who served during the Napoleonic Wars. But I do remember with a boy’s admiration Horatio Hornblower and his feats of daring do left to us by C.S. Forester.
When I asked “Why do you Read What You Read?” here is what some of you said:
- Mark Rosmore (writer friend and purveyor of everything Steampunk)
I read for characters, in hopes those characters get what they deserve – whether they are virtuous or villainous or somewhere in between – and to experience their journey through their eyes. While I’m visiting with them, I want to be transported to a unique, rich setting that sparks the imagination.
- Nicole Petrino-Salter (author, Romantic Realist,blogger, and sometimes reviewer at Unveiled)What makes a book good to me is taking the journey to get inside someone else’s skin, to feel their sensations. I love the variety of styles, voices. I hate formulaic and rule-bound novels.
So what characters have hung around with you long after meeting them in a movie you watched or a novel you read? How about those real life characters you have come across?
Two of the most memorable fictional characters for me are products of the fertile mind of Athol Dickson. Testament to the depth and impact of these two divergent characters is the fact I have read well over 100 novels since meeting them and yet they were the first to come to mind as I contemplated this subject. While I had to stop and refresh my memory about plot, subplot and ending I didn’t need to reopen either book to introduce you to these divergent characters.
- Hale Poser (River Rising) the blue-eyed black man searching for his past in the backwater village of 1927 Pilotville, Louisiana. This unassuming stranger arrives out of nowhere with nothing but his pirogue (canoe), empty pockets, and the uncanny ability to influence the broken lives of a towns people with a secret so dark and hidden most are unaware of its existence. Hale Poser is a Reverend with no congregation and a life with little past. Years since I first read River Rising the other characters have receded into the mists of the Louisiana swamp but not Hale Poser.
- Riley Keep (The Cure) the former educator, respected citizen, missionary, husband and father who is invisible to all who once knew him. Now he returns home years later, an abject failure. He is a homeless alcoholic ghost moving among the living, failed protector of a people a world away, weakling of a husband, and incompetent father. Riley is a most unlikely and more often than not unlikeable of heroes but there is something about him that sears him on one’s mind. Even when Riley Keep gets his act together and appears to become a success he is within himself a failure. Riley observes that people walk by him but never look into his eyes, never see him. He guesses it is because they fear they see some of themselves. I think Riley Keep guesses right. Nevertheless he is a hero, a broken man who finds the courage to act like a man, albeit be it a man with a limp.
Now it’s your turn. What characters are still with you long after first meeting them? What made them memorable?