Re: What makes characters memorable?

#3
There are MANY variables to this and I think a lot of it has to do with personal preferences on the readers end and execution on the author's end.

However, here's just a few things I can think of off the top of my head that could help:
Relatable - is your character a being with flaws and live a life of personal problems that they slowly overcome or accept? Do they have goals they want to achieve?(do your readers spend time with and get to experience these characters dealing with those flaws or problems?)
Unique - is the character unique or different from the 'norm'? (Usually a side character, but if you can enter the mind of someone like this I tip my hat to you)
Surprise - does the character perform an amassing or sudden surprising thing or feat?
...

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#4
What makes a character memorable is their extremities and their extremes. In what way do they extremely differ from other characters in the setting but also in general. The red head WILL stand out of there are no other red heads, and that can help build an image, but it’s also not very memorable since we remember other red heads from other stories.

The more you portray a character deviating from the norm the more memorable that deviation becomes. Like in this red-less setting if every character brought up the fact that that one had red hair like a running gag it would become even more potentially memorable, because it has an impact on the world, and things that have an impact on the world are “extremes” in their own way, and you’re given more reason to care and remember that red hair fact for how it influences how the plot progresses. Like that one arc where our red head needs to disguise themselves in a land that made wearing hats illegal.

Normal things can also be extreme. Despite all of us being tired of the boring “average”, a thing COMPLETELY average to the level pf absurdity is also a kind of extreme. Most things can be generally average, but they always diverge in detailed ways, which is why cliches are unrealistic even if they aren’t always completely untrue. So when our redhead travels to the continent of red heads, they stand out because they are the only one who still finds red-headedness special, the only one who cares. Red heads have their own cliches, and if they’re the only one playing the archetype as straight as can be they stand out from all the other red heads who don’t fully match that image.

Seeing a archetype or cliche in real life, exactly as it is conceptually portrayed in every way, is rare, and it stands out as a unique personality at times despite being perceived as something boring. Before something is so average it is boring it always has something at it’s core that is compelling, and being true to that core can be very engaging in a world where what made that old archetype special has been lost sight of. Otherwise classics being remade wouldn’t ever work, instead of just being unlikely to work.

Dynamism always stands out more than passiveness. A character stands out for their actions more than they ever do for their characteristics. A super edgy apathetic character who doesn’t care sounds very different at first, but then you realise they don’t actually DO anything, they aren’t driven to anything. And that’s more boring than having an old trope played straight will ever be.energetic characters are inherently more engaging (you can still do enthusiasm in a way that drives readers away) and characters that strongly desire things, have a burning need, those characters create the most change, and impacting the plot is impacting them being memorable.

One thing you need to keep in mind also is clarity. If you can understand something, you can remember it. A character might be super courageous, but if the reader is never made to realise how courageous they are that fact never a contributes to them being memorable. Character traits are like an argument, you don’t want to do anything that might undermine that image of what traits the character is supposed to have, even if it takes giving them an exaggerated personality at times. Giving both sides of the argument takes a more careful balance.

Our heroic red head is courageous, but also just a person as well. They still cower in fear when they are scared. If I had told you they were extremely brave, and then proceeded to only show you how they cower, you would feel like the character isn’t very consistent, and isn’t very clear. The boundaries of this character isn’t presented in a way that you can make prediction using, because their are inconsistencies that are not properly explained. But our little hero still trying, not running away even as they are frozen in terror, wanting to overcome that fear and charge in. Finding the monsters that they can fight against, doing their very BEST. That’s courage. So you can show how they aren’t brave, but it needs to be done very carefully and fully aware of how it impacts the clarity of the character in the reader’s mind.

A character doesn’t need to be fully clear the whole time either, just at the end, or everywhere except at the end. If one thing  ales everything make sense in hindsight, that makes a memorable character even if they were completely opaque for the rest ofthe book. Also, a character you fully understand except for one choice they make one thing they do is also memorable. Because you know them and what they’d do clearly, but something made them do something else. They might be opaque to you for that one thing, but the rest of the time they are so clear that it actually just makes them more memorable.

Make your characters weird, make them earnest in being their purest self, make them eager and driven, and make them influential, that or mysterious.

What makes a character memorable is contrast, and that can be done by making the other characters different compared to them as easily as it can be done by making them unique. Make them important, give them extremes. Develop clear expectation for how your characters behaves in the minds of your readers, and subvert those expectations in clever and surprising ways, ways that make your reader wonder at the mystery, or gasp at how much SENSE it makes without them anticipating it. But most of all, give them a clear and consistent image to remember them by, with however much complexity as you need to.

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#5
I think what makes an engaging character is that they have multiple layers that reveal themselves over time. It can be something as basic as "the ranger is actually a king!" to something deceptive where everyone thinks a character is good/bad and they are actually the opposite (or at least complicated). Or a character is a jerk to everyone, except at the moment when it really matters and he sacrifices himself for the good of all. (Sydney Carton in Tale of Two Cities) Or you find you WHY Scrooge is so cruel and bitter. Jay Gatsby--the surface / the reputation vs. the story beneath.

The word for this is "irony"--where people appear/act/talk in one way but there are other forces moving underneath that may actually seem at odds with their surface. They may or may not be aware of this. They may talk like they are humble, but they are actually very proud. They may think they are selfish, but actually they are generous. Etc., etc.

In my mind, that's the difference between a stock character and a memorable/engaging one.

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#6
For me, the type of characters that I tend to find more memorable in a story are the side characters that have no real depth to them and tend to be written as being present but have no say in any particular scene, but they almost always have that one moment where they shine the brightest in.

I'm not sure what it is that I love about them, but I really enjoy reading the bits of a story where these seemingly unimportant characters are present

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#7
I don't know if there's one set answer to that question. In some cases it's characters who make some sort of sacrifice for their friends. In others, its some unusual personality quirk that sticks with you. Or it could be a character who somehow redeems themselves. Then again, it could be a character who undergoes significant personality changes over the course of the book. For example, in Lord of the Rings, Samwise makes the sacrifice to willingly travel with Frodo to the most evil place on Middle Earth. And Gandalf certainly stands out from all the other characters (although this is more pronounced in the movies). And don't forget Golum, who's obsession with the ring leads him to unwittingly be the savior of Middle Earth. And finally, what about Frodo who slowly sinks into the same obsession as Golum and who's live is forever changed by that experience. All memorable characters for different reasons.

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#8
memorable is prob how you described a character if he had a unique personality or quirk you haven't seen yet or how he/she deals with cliches that you know of in an amusing and fresh way. the Important part is that you need to be constant in it so if you give your character something memorable you cant just stop after 10 chapters or it becomes inconsistent.

A lot worse is if you have for example a quirky sassy character then somehow other characters act that way too because the author forgot that it should only be a trait from one character and not from all of them and proceeds to write every character like that. That happens pretty regularly.

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#9
Which character's have carved themselves into your mind? Why do you think they succeeded? Why did other fail and fall into the void so easily? 

For me, it's about the rise and fall of each individual. What hardships did they face? How did they respond? Bonus points if you can extract a normative characteristic or caution from said character.

Some examples include:
Baramir & Foromir. Baramir was the great hero of Gondor, the captain of the guard, the favoured son of his father, and yet it is him who gives in to the ring and attempts to steal it from Frodo, as he desires power, albeit with noble intet. Meanwhile, the despised Faramir, cast out from his father's presence, rejects the allure of power, with its insidious strings, recognising that the weapon of the enemy will always pose a threat, as long as it exists. It is Faramir, who displays the greater nobility in his rejection of the ring and helping of Frodo, in the face of direct threat against his station from his father.

Edmund, from the Chronicles of Narnia, has a beautiful redemptive arc and becomes the most steadfast in his faith in Aslan, as he knows firsthand exactly what he was saved from. Contrast his behaviour with Susan, who began treating Aslan as a child's memory, trading him for cosmetics and popular opinion and was thus not present at the Last Battle.

And then there's Cohen the Barbarian, who's been around and survived long enough to know the usual barbarian schtick is a load of crap. It takes experience to know that the 3 greatest pleasures in life are "hot water, good dentishtry, and shoft lavatory paper."

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#10

parkertallan Wrote: I don't know if there's one set answer to that question. In some cases it's characters who make some sort of sacrifice for their friends. In others, its some unusual personality quirk that sticks with you. Or it could be a character who somehow redeems themselves. Then again, it could be a character who undergoes significant personality changes over the course of the book. For example, in Lord of the Rings, Samwise makes the sacrifice to willingly travel with Frodo to the most evil place on Middle Earth. And Gandalf certainly stands out from all the other characters (although this is more pronounced in the movies). And don't forget Golum, who's obsession with the ring leads him to unwittingly be the savior of Middle Earth. And finally, what about Frodo who slowly sinks into the same obsession as Golum and who's live is forever changed by that experience. All memorable characters for different reasons.


Oh my gosh, YES! How could I forget Sam? He is THE hero of LotR. He is the most unassuming of all the hobbits, yet it is his very steadfastness and loyalty that ensures victory

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#11

Scarlust Wrote: Which character's have carved themselves into your mind? Why do you think they succeeded? Why did other fail and fall into the void so easily?


This is an open debate, give your answers, make your case, but be open to others suggestions. You might think you are right but that doesn't mean everyone else is wrong.



1: Cool shit they do,
2: Relatability,
3: Making sure they stand out from the rest,
4: Making sure they have a personality, even if it's cliche - don't leave characters as blank slates.

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#12

Jornug Wrote: For me, the type of characters that I tend to find more memorable in a story are the side characters that have no real depth to them and tend to be written as being present but have no say in any particular scene, but they almost always have that one moment where they shine the brightest in.

I'm not sure what it is that I love about them, but I really enjoy reading the bits of a story where these seemingly unimportant characters are present


Yes. That reminds me of Robbie from Patriot Games. Dude never did anything that changed the story but his dialogue was magic.

Re: What makes characters memorable?

#13
For me a memorable character is all about growth. Does this character grow as a person and if they do not, what are the consequenses?
I think about the characters in al the novels I have read. . I think the world I am looking for is transformative change. It's not so much that a character should grow and learn, but that the pivotal change makes it impossible for the character to be the way they were before. If the character can backslide after the change, they are forgettable.

I am going to catch heat for this, but I do not like batman for this reason. He is actually a very forgettable character. The interesting and memorable characters are always the villains in a batman story. Each of them have had a transformative moment that they could not return from. But time and again,Batman always returns to what he is comfortable with. Which is being a bazillionaire who likes to slum it. Batman's whole premise isn't crimefighting, it's "money can buy anything except peace of mind"