I admit it. I’m like a magpie. I’m attracted to the new, the striking, the hey-cool! in the books I read. A never-been-done-before premise. An inventive world stuffed full of details. An awesome magic system. Lyrical prose. A well-turned phrase. Oh, I like high-concept too. “Polynesian flying robots battle Mesoamerican martial artists in an alternative nineteenth century world where most of Europe was destroyed by a meteorite”? I’m SOOO there.
But I’ve been going through my reviews lately and I realized that the stories that stay with me, the ones I *love* as opposed to just *admire*, the ones whose authors I stalk and whose sequels I impatiently await, are the ones whose characters come alive for me. I’ve read books by authors whose prose sparkled like the jewels in Ali Baba’s cave, but I cannot remember the name of a single character. Books whose narrative voice was witty and wonderful, but whose characters were mere cardboard cutouts. Books with worlds I could have never imagined–worlds that were unusual and worked–but whose characters were so bland or unlikeable I couldn’t stick with the story. These are the books that push my hey-cool! buttons but didn’t touch my heart.
Because really what stay with me after I’ve put the book down are the characters. If they are well-done, if they are compelling and sympathetic, if I’m emotionally involved in them, then I’ll come back for more. Characters steal my heart, not clever prose or well-built worlds.
As a writer, I focus a LOT of worldbuiling. Partly because I write fantasy, partly because my stories end up demanding it, and partly because I consider this to be a weak spot of mine. Now, with this revelation from my reader-brain, I’m thinking I need to put my characters under the microscope a bit more.
Who are some of your favorite characters, and why?