Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Characters Live With You?

Yes, I have finally re-entered the blog-o-sphere, although my perspective may be a little shaky.  Please forgive me if I ramble a bit too much. 

With my own revision finally done, I actually had a chance to finish the fabulous book I had started before everything went pear-shaped.

If you haven't read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK yet, please run straight away to the nearest bookstore or library and grab this jewel. How could a boy named Nobody be so strong a character that he takes up permanent residence in my brain? Because Neil Gaiman crafted an amazing character in a brilliant setting with such a sublime mission. Yes, I gush. But this is one of those books.  And Nobody is one of those characters. 

Neil Gaiman makes it look so easy, but how does a character manage to transcend the page and haunt your thoughts for who-knows-how-long?  And who has done that for you?

First, what better mechanism for drawing on the reader's sympathy than opening your book with a prodigiously courageous infant in peril?  From the first meeting, we are drawn to Nobody in the most primal way.  Especially if you are a parent.  If you are kid, you can't help but admire this kid's tenacity and guts.  His loneliness haunts us, his hunger for knowledge tempts us, his evolution inspires us.  I think dear Bod will be with me for quite a while—most likely forever.

Second, what other characters stay with me?  Of course Harry Potter grabbed me from the start.  Again, I think the fact that I am a parent engendered a connection beyond what the intended audience would understand.  I wanted to protect him, to love him, to give him hope.  But of course, if I could, he wouldn't be Harry. 

Kit Tyler from THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND was one of my favorites from my childhood.  I read that book...32 years ago (Yikes!)...and I still think of her.  She has spunk.  She has righteous indignation...and the courage to do something about it.  

Others that stay with me:  Ramona Quimby, Gooneybird Green, Gemma Doyle, Edward Tulane, Ann Fay Honeycutt,... just to name a few.

It's not just their strength or their boundless courage.  Quite the contrary.  It's their fallibility.  Their humanness.  

I am thinking about all this as I begin work on my next YA novel.  Already I'm living with my characters and learning about them, watching them grow into interesting and flawed young people.  I just hope I can right them as clearly as I feel them.  

What characters haunt you?


  1. I too loved The Graveyard Book. I'm a huge Gaiman fan!

    There are so many great characters, especially in middle grade and young adult literature. An especially strong one that comes to mind is Lyra from Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. She's a strong, interesting character from the very first page.

  2. I haven't read The Graveyard Book yet, but you make me want to borrow it simply because of the character.

    Actually the book character that still haunts me is Harry Potter. I'm a big fan of JK Rowlings and look forward to reading more from her (that is, if she has the energy to write more).

    Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) also haunts me as a character, but only the movie version. I haven't read the book version yet (*gasp*) but hope to do so.


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