Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Elusive Magic

Well, once again I’ve been caught short and, if I am honest, I have only myself to blame.

I could spin a tantalizing yarn about a weekend wasted on fruitless pursuits and a disappointing end to what could have been a great relationship. I could sit here and tell you that the well of my inspiration was emptied by the fear that comes with hearing a tornado siren for the first time. The lack of sleep brought on by the dread and worry of tornadoes in the night has stunted the refilling of that well and the nature of my employment has meant that the village of ideas in my mind is dying of thirst.

But, really, it's absolute bollocks. I’m just making excuses. And my excuse for tonight? Oh, yes, the release of Sherlock Holmes on DVD. For as long as I can remember, Holmes has been my favorite detective, with Poirot and Columbo tying for second. So, of course, I was thrilled when the most famous detective in the world got an update.

However, as this new Holmes kicks ass in the background, I started thinking. Here is a character that was created over one hundred years ago in an era of staunch Victorianism. He is so unlike anyone else in the world that it really seems strange that he has survived as a popular character for so long.

What is it about Holmes that makes us love him so? We shouldn’t, if you think about it. He is quite rude, kind of misogynistic, and has an ego that defies belief. Yet we adore him.

You see, this is a piece of magic that I have been striving to learn for a long time now; the magic of a well written character. I want to create characters that people feel very strongly about.

And so I have a question for you. What, in your mind, makes a good character? What qualities or faults do they possess?

I’ll set an example. Thomas Covenant, from Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, is the best character I’ve ever read about. Truthfully, I hated this character from the very beginning; not because he was badly written, but because he, as a person, was just horrid. That made him believable and thus made the story more believable, even though it was a fantasy novel.

So, who’s you favorite character, flaws and all?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I like this post and the question. I can't name a favorite character, but I can say that all the ones I love are, as you pointed out, astoundingly flawed. From my favorite stories as a kid there are characters who are impetuous, selfish, dissenting, standoffish, and/or opinionated. The characters I love now are even more flawed. And, like Holmes, they are flawed in dramatic ways. They are more than the usual person in every way, strenghts and faults included. I think exaggeration and strength-weakness tension make a good character. At least, it creates one I want to read.