Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Characterisation the way I like it

I like characters to be real and human. Not elves, hobbits or aliens. They can be humans with ridiculous fictional abilities though. I don’t mind if they can time travel, fly or see dead people. As long as they are human, the “willing suspension of disbelief” will do the rest.

I like to root for my main character. Their goal has to be something valid for them. And they have to be likeable, while bearing in mind that flawlessness is not attractive. There must be a flaw for them to be human, but I don’t like a clunky and frustrating flaw. Just a minor one.

I like central characters to be multi-dimensional. I want to know what they look like, how they smell (a little!), how they feel – physically –  when in an awkward situation or chase scene. I want to care about their past and wonder about the gaps left by the writer.

In TV, my favourite is [H]ouse. In books… my choices are a bit more sentimental, which is weird.

English: Hugh Laurie at TV series House event ...

English: Hugh Laurie at TV series House event at Paley Center for Media, Beverly Hills, California. Italiano: Hugh Laurie allo House Paley Center”, evento dedicato alla serie televisiva Dr. House – Medical Division. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you like your characters?


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12 thoughts on “Characterisation the way I like it

  1. I love House! I love the show Bones with Temperance Brennen, love her. I don’t mind hobbits and elves but I agree with you in terms of character, complex with foibles and vulnerabilities.

  2. I’m with you on preferring humans. Cannot stand the cutesy little stories for children where the mama bear says, ” . . .
    Let them be human and let us exercise our imaginations!!!
    Thanks. 🙂

    • Yes, it is odd that so many stories for children are perfectly human stories, told with animals.

      • Do you suppose it’s a way to avoid illustration that shows any preference for color of human? I mean, all the zebra family members can be black AND white with impunity. And they can all use correct grammar without making anyone feel left out. And their colts can need correction all the time without making any particular people group look prone to error.

      • That’s a clever way to look at it 😉
        Maybe there’s something “they” have figured out about children which means that books where the characters are animals sell more?

  3. In most story telling, a lead character has to have flaws, as it means you root for them as they have to struggle to overcome the odds of the story. An invincible character who can effortlessly overcome all obstacles is, well, boring.

    I don’t understand the aversion to anthropomorphic/non human characters either; as long as a character is well written, it’s easy to invest. They can be just as flawed; Hobbits are hampered by their tiny size and lack of fighting skills in a violent world, Nemo’s dad is hindered by his tiny size, own anxieties and less than useful companion, WALL-E is the last of his kind, outdated and falling to bits.

    Plus, The Muppets rock and we have no idea what Gonzo is supposed to be.

    • When I read any Pratchett or Tolkein, I completely fail to care for the characters becuase my willing suspension of disbelief won’t work.
      So saying, I can deal with War Horse and Black beauty being narratted by horses… so I have some inconsistencies 🙂

  4. While I have a major fondness for SOME Hobbits (and for Aragorn, gorgeous, gorgeous Aragorn – or is it Viggo?) I do agree that I am much more drawn to “real” humans.
    Investing your characters with qualities that leave them well rounded and credible (difficult when one of them has sort of slipped through a crack in time) is what makes writing such fun. Writing long, long backstories and then deleting everything but the essential details is what (hopefully) enriches the reading experience. The problem with writing backstories is that suddenly you have a new novel in the making…


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