Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Unforgettable Characters

We've all met a few of them along the way: those characters who live on in our thoughts long after the story has ended, prompting us to wonder, however irrationally, what happened to them. As a reader, I've encountered a number, and going back to read their tales is like meeting up with old friends. For instance, I'm re-reading Stephen King's masterpiece The Stand right now, a book I've revisited every couple of years since discovering it in the sixth grade. His particular gift as an author, and one that has always inspired me, is to create characters who leap off the page and truly breathe. I have wondered about the eventual fates of Frannie, Stu Redman, and Tom Cullen for a long time, wishing I could check in on them. There's no way to know, of course. Stephen King himself probably doesn't even know. So I re-read their story and try to content myself with revisiting the places I, and they, have already been. And "Don't Fear the Reaper" is always playing in my head as I do it:-) Um, to appreciate that, you'd have to have seen the mini-series. It's the perfect song for that book, though.

There are other characters I carry with me too, of course. In romance, I've never let go of Lisa Kleypas' lovely and resourceful Wallflowers, or of Nora Roberts' three witches from her Three Sisters Island trilogy. The kingdom of Dream, and Morpheus, from Neil Gaiman's Sandman, recently caught my imagination as nothing had in a long time and have often crept into my thoughts. Never thought I would fall into a graphic novel that way, honestly, but it was utterly captivating. J.K. Rowling's motley cast of characters are ones I know I'll never let go of, no matter how hard it was to accept some of their fates. And the list goes on.

Unforgettable characters are the ultimate gift an author can give a reader. It's not a perfect science (I have, on occasion, loved a character while not caring at all for the story they apppeared in), but as a writer, making my characters live and breathe on the page is a goal pretty high on my list. All of my creations, hero and heroine, villain and supporting character, stay with me and are not forgotten (that would be both rude, since I invented them, and also a pretty lousy recommendation for my own work), but even among them, there have been a few standouts who have not wanted to let me go. The nice thing is that I can write their stories if they nag at me for an extended period of time. And, being that I wrote a trilogy (the final book, Wild Highland Magic, comes out in May...gotta get the plug in there!), I was able to give readers a little more of the story of each character, even the ones living their Happily Ever Afters. And believe me, I probably enjoyed checking in on them more than anyone!

So who would I peg as my own most unforgettable character, one who emerged from my own frantic and jumbled imagination? Well, anyone who is aware of my bad boy fetish won't be at all surprised. Though it's a close contest, I'd have to say that Lucien, the tortured, sharp-tongued dragon prince from Dark Highland Fire has left the most lasting mark on me. True, he was the villain in that book. But I was pleased to see that a lot of readers saw his potential for redemption, and wanted to know what happens next. I'm happy to say they'll find out in the upcoming Wild Highland Magic. Lucien wouldn't let me alone, so he got a very large supporting role in the story of how Rowan's cursed brother gets his life back...finding his own way in the process. But though he may have found his destiny, Lucien Andrakkar is just one of those characters whose story will never quite seem as though it should be finished, who I'll always wonder about. And that's just fine with me:-)

So now it's your turn: who are some of your favorite, most unforgettable characters? Whether you've read them or written them, what characters came to life on the page for you?

-Kendra

14 comments:

  1. For unforgettable characters, I'd have to say the four brothers in Nora Robert's Chesapeake Series. They all were different, they all stole my heart, and I believe if they walked into my house today, I would recognize each of them.

    My own unforgettable character was Caleb, aka Do-Lord, the hero of SEALed With a Promise to be released in April. He appeared first as the perceptive sidekick in SEALed With a Kiss. When I saw how he longed for what Jax had found, I had to promise him his own HEA. Of course, THAT was after he held Jax's story hostage, and wouldn't let me go on with it until I wrote down his backstory.

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  2. I agree with MM about Nora's Chesapeake brothers. That was a great series. I also think about Meggie and Fr. Ralph from The Thorn Birds, a book I loved so much. It probably sparked my love of romance when I first read it in 8th grade.

    My own most unforgettable character is one who hasn't been published (yet). Jack Harrington from Treading Water has stayed with me and will be with me forever. I hope you get to read his story someday. You'll love him.

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  3. My most unforgettable characters are all the zany brothers, cousins, and friends who were Georgette Heyer's supporting players. They crack me up every time! I've based several of my own secondary characters on them, and they're as much fun to write as they are to read.

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  4. Unforgettable characters--what a great topic Kendra!

    I LOVE the Concannon Sisters from Nora Roberts' Born In Trilogy (I see a NR theme here...). I also love Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings... In a creepy way, I really love Humbert Humbert from Lolita... and how about every Jane Austen character? From a more modern novels, the sisters in My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, Cal/Callie from Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenidies and the entire Beasley Family from On Beauty by Zadie Smith...

    And I can't even start with Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, the Brontes...

    Can you tell I read a lot? I could go on all day! :)

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  5. Morning, ladies! Yes, I DEFINITELY see a NR theme today. But, as with Stephen King, Nora's great gift is in making her characters real to her readers, making us care about them. It's why I'll give pretty much anything she writes a shot. And I can see I'm going to have to go pick up the Chesapeake trilogy!

    MM, I can tell from the way you talk about him that Do-Lord is one of those characters who has really captured your heart. It's wonderful, the way you describe him...almost as though he's an old and dear friend, which I suppose he is! Marie, I know that's the book of your heart, and I KNOW it's going to see print!

    Cheryl, once again, a reminder of why I really need to get off my butt and go hunt up a Georgette Heyer! Because I LOVE things like that! Which one is your favorite?

    Danielle, I've heard all sorts of good stuff about the Born In trilogy (as my list grows longer, ha ha). I love Sam too, though I'm awfully attached to Merry and Pippin...and really, I always wanted to know what the elves' lives were like once they left Middle Earth for good, and how Bilbo and Frodo fared among them. Amazing books! Did you ever read Watership Down, speaking of classics? I meant to mention Bigwig in my post as one of my unforgettables...I still love that brave little rabbit. It's awesome that you read so much...not that I would expect any different from you!

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  6. The Stand is on my Top 10 list - one of the best books ever written, hands down. I would LOVE to read what happens next with Stu, Frannie, and the bunch, but not written by King as he would surely have another holocaust and kill them all off!

    I have so many memorable characters in books I read and reread and reread that I would be here forever listing them all. Thanks, Kendra, for the walk down the lane.

    As for my own, well obviously I have a love for Austen's characters. But, I have created many who are all mine. My favorite appears in my next book. Dr. George Darcy, the eccentric, world-traveling uncle who is just wonderful, if I say so myself! Can't wait for the world to meet him!!

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  7. I love all the NR series' too. I think the Chesapeake series actually was five books. We can't forget Seth's book, Chesapeake Blue.

    I adore any character created by Jane Austen, especially Darcy and Elizabeth--sigh.

    As for me, I love all my characters, but I have to say my favorite is probably a character who was in my first book which is yet to be published. His name is Edward and when I had to kill him off, I cried for an entire weekend and went through four boxes of tissues.

    Robin :)

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  8. All of the JR Ward's Vamps. Love them!

    Nora's characters always stay with me as well.

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  9. You know, Kendra--i have not read Watership Down... and I call myself a Fantasy geek :) But I've read a lot about it, and heard only the best of the best about it. I suppose instead of re-reading LOTR every year, I should expand.

    You should totally check out The Silmarillion and Tolkien's Unfinished Tales--you get a lot of back story about Middle Earth, specifically the elves... it's a little hard to read and get into, but if you're a fan and you want to see just how insanely brilliant Tolkien was at his world building, it's a reading project worth tackling!!

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  10. Hi Kendra,
    For the best zany brother, try These Old Shades. Favorite hero, The Quiet Gentleman. Favorite heroine/hero combination, Sylvester. Favorite heroines, The Convenient Marriage and A Civil Contract, Favorite funny hero, Cotillion.
    That'll do for a start....

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  11. Gone with the Wind! I can still see the characters in the book and I want Rhett Butler! Ashley, nah!

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  12. Sharon, I'm in total agreement with you about The Stand! No matter how many times I read it, it haunts me just the same. Interestingly, it isn't King's favorite book, though he has mentioned that his fans seem to like that one best. I'm just like, how could they NOT? I also agree that Austen's characters are a treat, and your Dr. Darcy sounds wonderful!

    Robin, that's terrible that you had to kill one of your darlings! He must have really been something to merit so much tissue! What happened?

    Vicki, that's yet another recommendation for JR Ward's vamps...somehow I haven't read any of them yet, though they've been in my hands at the bookstore I don't know how many times. I apparently need to get on the stick, here!:-)

    Danielle, if you love fantasy, you'll LOVE Watership Down. I can't recommend it enough. You'll also never look at rabbits quite the same way again! I've thought of trying The Silmarillion, though I did hear it was quite dry. I love that you're a LOTR fangirl! There's nothing wrong with that:-) The one I haven't re-read in a while is The Hobbit...it's probably about time.

    Cheryl, that sound you hear is me madly scribbling down your recommendations. This is GREAT!!

    Terry, that's one of those classics I've never read, but everyone who has seems to mark it as one of their favorites!

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  13. I have to cast a vote for Nora's alter ego, JD Robb. Eve and Roarke just make me...yeah.

    As for my own characters, I'm stuck on my snarky FBI agent in one of my paranormal books that needs major revision before it ever sees the light of day. Sade has been with me for years, and not patiently on her part. She's on the list for later this spring.

    Watership Down should be required reading for fantasy fans, as should Gaiman's Stardust.

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  14. Silver, I couldn't agree with you more about WD and Stardust...I love the book, and I saw the movie twice at the theater! I just read Coraline as well, and though I know it's technically a kid's book, Gaiman always brings that wonderful dark wit of his. Loved it.

    JD Robb is awesome. I've never met an "In Death" book I didn't like. And Eve and Roarke never get old!

    LOL on the impatient character. I know all about those:-)

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