I was thinking about doing a top 10 list of favorite book characters I have been exposed to just this year (meaning not Austen or Austen-adaptation characters, since I’m already really familiar with them outside of their books, nor characters from continuing series that I have already read), and when I jotted down my list, I was surprised by how few books were represented.
From the Grisha trilogy: (1) Mal, (2) Alina, and (3) Sturmhond
From Harry Potter: (4) Harry Potter, (5) Ron, and (6) Hermione
From Seraphina: (7) Seraphina and (8) Kiggs
From Across a Star-Swept Sea: (9) Persis and (10) Justen
I’ve read more than four books/series with characters that were new to me this year, so why did the other characters just not stand out to me? What makes a character a favorite? Here are some things that I personally gravitate towards…
The reason why I have always liked Jo March (Little Women) so much was because I could relate to her. She was a tomboy who loved to write and act out stories. I wasn’t exactly a tomboy, but I was far from prissy, and I definitely related to her love of stories and writing. I often connect with characters who are writers, have a personality similar to mine, enjoy the same things I do, etc.
I know this can be vague, but I’ll explain what this means to me personally. I like people I can relate with, as mentioned above, but I also like people who balance me, or people who are just kind. And when it comes to book boys (or real-life guys for that matter), forget bad boys. I love the good guys, the sweet gentlemen. This is why I love Peeta so much, and root for Lincoln Lee in Fringe season 4. Good guys don’t finish last in my book! And then there are those people that are so likable because of their nature and good heart, like Cinna in The Hunger Games. With girls, a lot of time I find sweet, naive girls likable, like Cress, because they just seem so pure-hearted!
Fan art of Alina by Claire, can be found here
This doesn’t necessarily mean physically strong, but able to hold their own when times are tough. Obviously Katniss is an example of this, though she does have weak moments, but I think that’s also important because it’s human. I also think of both Alina and Mal in The Grisha Trilogy, who both struggle but are able to keep going, no matter how bad things get for them (and they get BAD). We root for characters who keep going.
I really, really, REALLY appreciate when a character is capable, when they can put the pieces together and figure things out, and I don’t feel the need to yell at them for their dumb decisions. Sometimes these characters are WAY smarter than me, like Sherlock Holmes, which I can appreciate, and sometimes their intelligence might feel more equal to mine, though they may be better versed in a particular area than I am. Either way, intelligence is always welcome as I don’t have to become so frustrated with the character!
Come on, we all love the characters with the clever one-liners. Flynn Rider, Han Solo, Carswell Thorne, Sturmhond, the list goes on. Who you calling scruffy-looking?
6. Otherwise Interesting
Some characters are just interesting in a way that I can’t describe. Sometimes they’re a bit eccentric or quirky, sometimes they have a haunting backstory, sometimes they just have that something that can’t be explained, like Effie or Caesar from The Hunger Games.
7. Positive Character Arc
Sometimes we don’t love a character from the start or might not understand them at first, but as we see them grow through their journey, they become likable, or we empathize with their plight and grow endeared towards them. Like with Jane Austen’s Emma, we see the main character learning from her mistakes and striving to be a better person in turn. By the end when she opens up her heart and accepts others, we in turn have grown to care for her.
For me personally, a character usually needs to have at least two or three of these traits for me to really latch onto them and continue to think fondly of them long after I finish their story.
What about you? What makes a character your favorite?
I think you did a great job of covering most of the reasons. It is all about the character arc for me though. If a character isn’t developing over the course of a novel then I won’t be engaging with them. It helps if the angst is minimal though…
I think the arc is definitely a very big factor!
I really like characters that are relatable, likable, and interesting. Although they don’t always have to be all three. Sometimes I really love “unlikable” characters, depending on how they’re written. But usually I think that unlikable characters are actually usually likable on some level, whether because they’re intriguing or deep down they have a good heart…so it’s sort of a thin line.
I don’t think that I have an all-time favorite, but Katniss and Peeta are two characters that I absolutely love. I find it hard not to compare female main characters to Katniss sometimes, because I just think that she’s, like, the epitome of what I want out of a heroine.
With otherwise unlikable characters, I think that’s where interesting/witty/intelligent can really help them out sometimes. It makes me think of Loki, who a lot of people like even though he’s a villain. I honestly didn’t quite get the fuss over him from Thor and Avengers, but he stole every scene he was in in Thor 2 and that made me like him as a character a lot more.
Katniss and Peeta are both great; I agree!
Everything that’s on your list is on mine too! Though sadly I don’t have many favorites, at least not recently. Though what mainly makes a character a favorite is when they’re super interesting or unique. AND NO STUPID DECISIONS. I hate hate hate characters that don’t know what they’re doing!
Yes, stupid decisions are always so frustrating! I might forgive one or two because we can all be dumb, but when it happens over and over… sheesh!
I 100% agree, those are all the reasons I love characters..I think it helps when you see a bit of yourself in them..I always can relate to Jane in Jane Eyre as we have some characteristics in common!
Yes, it’s always neat when you see something of yourself in someone else… as long as it’s not a bad part of yourself anyway. 🙂
I think wit is the surefire way to get my attention. I just love witty characters, and intelligent ones impress so much. I just love characters that prove their worth in so many ways! And characters that go through so many changes to the point that their character arc is noticeable? That has me cheering.
Yes, yes, yes and yes! You seem to have listed all the reasons I fall in love with a character, and how they will make it on to my favourites list. I find it very difficult to love a character if I can’t relate to them in any way. Intelligence and wit are two things that I think are very important to find in characters, if they have both then they’re a sure favourite. I like the good guys too, nice guys definitely don’t finish last in my eyes.
Yay for nice guys!
Those are definitely a lot of the reasons I find characters likable. If they make me laugh and aren’t dumb, if I relate to them and then they make choices similar to what I would. That seems to bother me lately – when a character is totally relatable and then they go off and do something that I would never do – it bothers me unless the author has done a really good job of showing me their motivation. There is also something kind of undefinable about what makes characters likable though, sometimes 🙂
And that is the end of my mad catch up on posts. It was fun, though, because i enjoy reading your point of view. I’m glad I kept the posts to come back to 🙂
Mad props for doing all this back-reading! If I get behind on blog posts I just skip a lot, ha ha! But I agree about characters making similar decisions as you would making them so much more relatable and thus likable than if they do something you never would and don’t understand why they would either!