Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Of Good Character

Ah, here they are. Aragorn and Gandalf. If you have read The Lord Of The Rings you love them. And what about Gollum/Smeagol? And Frodo and Sam? Amazing.

I think J.R.R. Tolkien would have been just another writer if he hadn't possessed the remarkable ability to create strong, living-breathing characters. But he did have that talent. In spades. So much so that decades later people still read, cherish, and lose themselves in his work. I'm proud to say I love hobbits. I want my garden to look like a hobbit tends it. I kind of feel like a hobbit deep down inside. Elevensies, anyone? Could you pass the lambas, please? (Secret Alert: I've had a crush on Legolas since the fifth grade!)

Did you know they are performing a lavish, musical production of LOTR in London? I wonder what Tolkien would say to that.

We want all of the people in our books to be of good character. We want them to connect with the reader and hold them captive until the end of the story and beyond. How do you find inspiration for your characters? Do you base them on historical figures, celebrities, or family members?

I'd love to hear how you create this vital, literary element.

Happy Tuesday!


  1. I don't have much experience actually making characters, I don't even think of myself as a writer, I started blogging a lot recently as a release and escape from the world as I know.

    Kinda a public journal. Sometimes it's easier to share yourself with perfect strangers then a best friend.

    I stumbled upon your blog through a blogger I follow Sarah from writer in the making hope you don't mind me following along =)

  2. I don't know where my characters come from. I've read a lot of books, watch a ton of movies, met a lot of people, know a lot of people...everywhere and everyone?

  3. I love having you as a blogging buddy, Alle. Thanks for visiting. I think blogging is a great way to express ideas and feelings, and maybe you'll find you like writing enough to make up a story or two as well. See you at your blog soon.

  4. I agree with you, Hannah. I think we put a smattering of our impressions from different mediums into our characters.

  5. I love LOTR! And the characters really do make the story. I have a hobbit in me as well, but I'd like to think I'm more elegant like an elf :)

    I put a piece of myself in all of my characters. That's the only way I can bring them to life.

  6. My characters tend to pull from everywhere. They tend to speak to me first and then I add elements of myself, friends or people I meet. That gives them a personal element.
    You keep me thinking.:)

  7. Hey Roxy,

    thanks for joining my blog.

    I agree with you about Tolkien's ability to create vivid characters. My favourite in Lord of the Rings was Sam because he was so truehearted and brave. That bit where he thinks Frodo's been killed by the spider and he's all alone but he doesn't abandon the quest - blows me away every time! He's the one I had a crush on instead of Legolas or Aragorn.

    I can't say where I get my inspiration for my characters. They just come to me. I've never yet based a character on anyone I knew although they may have similar character traits. Most often it's the character that tells me what they're like as people and I just put that down on paper.


  8. For me, character is at the heart of every story. I pull characters from everywhere; and sometimes I think bit and pieces and parts of me and those I know best bleed over into them. But in the end, they all share the same hopes and dreams and disappointments and failures we all do. That binds them to us.

  9. A TLOTR stage musical? That sounds wonderful.

    As for my characters, they seem to creep out of the darkness (my imagination) fully formed. One was inspired by a dream. But relatives or celebrities or historical figures? I don't use any those, at least not consciously.

  10. Pieces of my characters come from all sorts of sources - myself, family and friends, strangers in the store, dreams, etc. I take 1-2 characteristics then mix, twist, brainstorm and what-if to deepen my character's traits.
    This makes me want to watch LOTR's again. :)

  11. I saw Lord of the Rings in London in 2008. I have to say that it had the most spectacular special effects in a musical that I have ever seen. Sad to report, but I understand that the show is no longer playing in London, but if it ever makes it to the US, try to see it if you can....

  12. My characters are a Hodge podge of everyone I know. Lucky them! LOL! Happy Tuesday!!

  13. I have a secret crush on Legolas too! (only it's not a secret anymore)

    I usually dream about my characters, or sometimes one will just sort of walk up and start talking to me. Then I work on fleshing them out better.

  14. What a great blog! I am going to have to go and read some of your older posts!

    Best wishes,

  15. For my drama, my girls are based on real life people I know (and parts of me), with embellishments. So fun. I feel a bit like Dr. Frankenstein. I get to piece together the characters with limbs and whims of different people.

  16. I love creating my characters. Often, I use a person I've seen on TV (not too famous) to get the face, mannerisms, and sometimes, accent in my head. Thinking about their backgrounds, wishes, etc. is one of my favorite parts about writing.

  17. The best whole-hearted attempt I made at character development was when I used my cousin who was dying of breast cancer as my inspiration. I am afraid I would not be great at coming up with a character from scratch. But does anyone ever really do that anyway?

  18. I love LOTR! But the crush is all Aragorn. I could never compete with Legolas' hair.

    I think my characters are like mutts. They are mix of fantasy and reality. Except for the flaws, that is mainly my sister. Not really...(yes, really).

  19. Well, first, Roxy, I'd like to say CONGRATS on the request for the partial (I have been MIA for a few days...so I'm just now catching up with you guys) ...I'll be excited for you, and there to administer CPR WHEN you get signed!
    (did you email the agent and ask/what did you end up doing?)

    Secondly, I do likes me some Tolkien books. I was excited to see the movies, like the dork that I really am, but the cast really had me in their grip. What better man-candy is there than Vigo and Orlando? (well, okay, Orlando and Depp isn't worse). I often hate movie versions of beloved books, but I did enjoy the LOTR trilogy greatly.

    As for writing characters, they (characters) and their dialog, for me, are the easiest and most fun part of writing fiction. (plots? structure? titles? NOT easy. TORTURE.) I'm not sure how to articulate how or why the characters are easy for me. Hmm, I'll have to examine that for a bit and maybe I can come up with a way to explain my experience/process.

    Happy Hump Day Foxy Roxy!


  20. my characters are so often a mix of a million people i've met in my life -- even people i've only met for a moment, but whose personalities really resonated with me somehow. they're never entirely based on one person i know. :D

    great post, by the way!!

  21. I love hobbits too. Sam is my all time favorite character. I sometimes use interesting personality traits of people I know. I think mostly just watching and listening to people helps me create characters.

  22. I'd say my characters are based just slightly on real people, with a hint of me and a whole lot of fantasy. I love hobbits too. Your garden sounds fun!

  23. dear roxy,

    i'm afraid i don't write fiction,but i sure do
    love to read it.

    the LOTR has been a staple for years. think
    i've read it 5 or 6 times.

    and you are so right, it is the incredible
    characters that carry the book.

    great essay!

  24. Good question! My characters are a mix of real and imaginary people. I love creating them!

  25. A musical? Sound interesting. I'm basing two of my main characters off of Melanie and Scarlett from Gone With the Wind, but only a little bit. I love Aragorn and Gandalf.