Monday, January 24, 2011

Creation of Memorable Characters! Are mine to be forgotten?

The burning question: have I created memorable characters and is their story as stunning as I would hope for? 

If I’d written “Gone With The Wind” I would be Margaret Mitchell. No doubt she felt chuffed to bits when her blockbuster hit the bookstands and became a best-seller overnight. But, a lingering question has always surrounded Margaret Mitchell’s one-book deal. “Why did she only ever write the one book?” But she didn’t, did she, she wrote “Lost Laysen”, a novella. And, it was written ten years before GWTW!

Who can’t remember Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Scarlett O’Hara (Vivienne Leigh), Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland)? OK, so the movie itself has visualised the characters for us. The novel, if read, is memorable in other ways. Its detailed descriptions of time and place and vivid characters leap from the page and all, as good as, if not better than the movie portrays.

Have you heard of Miss Ross & Bill Duncan? NO? Well you’re not alone. Yet, Miss Ross and Bill Duncan are as vibrant and intriguing as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, and equally spring from the pages of “Lost Laysen” in a flurry of romantic notions and that of unrequited love. 

Now, if I can write novels again in which characters as good as leap from the page and become real people – if but for a moment in time – perhaps even memorable long after the book has been read and put away, I shall be a happy bunny. As for Margaret Mitchell, the kind of fame and momentary glitz and glamour that came her way has never been my dream.  If it ever threatened, I’d do a Greta Garbo and rely on mystique of shades! ;)  


  1. I didn't know that - how fascinating!

  2. I have read (and own) LOST LAYSEN. After I read GWTW when I was a kid, of course I ran out to see what else she had written. I only wish Margaret Mitchell had written more.

  3. The question in my mind is what makes a character memorable? Why are Rhett and Scarlett more memorable than Miss Ross and Bill Duncan? Why is Jane Eyre more memorable than Shirley Keelder or Lucy Snowe, Charlotte Bronte's other heroines?

  4. Some characters catch popular is easy to see why. But some don't, despite having all the characteristics of the popular ones, and those are the ones that puzzle me.

  5. Scarlet is one of those women who always stay with me, and another favourite is...oh wait until tomorrow for that! What makes a character memorable? We all attempt tomake our characters stand out, I am sure, and they will be memorable to us, but there has to be something else!

  6. Hi Ellie,

    Thanks for dropping by. Yep, it's amazing what fascinating things there are to discover about other authors! ;)

    Liz, I remember we discussed "Lost Laysen" before. Cute little story!

    Paula, I guess memorable characters have that special something. They are unique: copy-cat characters never match up to them.

    Damyanti, good to see you here. Re puzzle factor: again I don't think copy-cat characters can match up to the original. The same can be said of many re-make movies and TV dramas, those that make us groan in despair of original characters ruined by wrong type-casting!

    Margaret, if you got a bit of magic fairy dust to make characters memorable could you spare a few specks and throw them my way? ;)


  7. Memorable characters come alive in a dynamic plot that resonates with a large number of readers. Every author, agent, publisher, film studio, and bookseller wishes they knew the secret key to immortality.

  8. Wow, I knew Margaret Mitchell was killed before she could write anything after GWTW, but I never knew she'd written something before GWTW.

    I'm going to have to look that one up.

  9. Ana,

    But the thing about dynamic plots, is that not all bestsellers have one! Oft so-called bestsellers are so hyped before publication day they reach the heady status of bestseller on sales figures alone (result of hyped advertising). All too often the content leaving a lot to be desired.

    Over the past few years I've read some bestsellers that have had mediocre plots, lack lustre characters and in need of a decent editor.

    That said, I've read quite a lot of self-pubbed books and e-books this last year, the latter from small e-presses. For the most part (I hasten to point out) both mediums impressed me with slick well-honed prose, well-rounded characters, and best of all sense of originality in style and writer voice. One thing I've noticed with small press e-book publishers is lack of obligatory house style and less notable editorial inhouse influences.


    Hee hee, I can't get Zach out of my mind,(memorable) but that might be because I visualised Tom Selleck as Zach. It was the tub scene did it for me! ;)

  10. Agree about the hype around so-called best-sellers - some books can be panned by the critics but still become best sellers (Dan Brown is a case in point).
    Also, quite often, the 'winners' of the supposedly prestigious literary awards are incomprehensible (and boring!) plotless novels which fade away into obscurity!