What makes a great character?

Think of your favourite books and movies, and ask yourself – what made you love or hate these characters? What made them so…compelling? The Write Practice wrote a post on this, titled Han Solo, Scarlett O’Hara, and Your Characters: What Makes Them Compelling? Definitely worth a read! To me, I can think of a few memorable characters, right off the bat:

Bella Swan. Now, when I think of Bella, I immediately think of the following synonyms: annoying, insipid and ungrateful. Read this great article on Fifty Shades of Sexism: Why Are Our Modern Heroines So Weak? and you’ll see what I mean.

On the other hand, when I think of Anne of Green Gables, I think of a very flawed girl-turned-woman with agency, passion and determination. I’m telling you, the classics are called the classics for good reason.

Having read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and watched the movies, I vastly prefer Eowyn over Arwen. Eowyn is a strong, focused, brave heroine who literally jumped into the jaws of death. Remember that scene? “I am no man!” Oh, goosebumps! Her courage is way cool. Arwen actually didn’t feature much in the LOTR books, unlike the movie, and..well…she was very ephemeral, beautiful, and useful for Aragon’s dream-scenes 😛 She doesn’t have as much independent substance as Eowyn.

To me, the best kinds of characters are the ones who grow throughout the story. I want to see someone who is flawed bumble through the pages of his/her story, and then triumph over his/her inadequacies and be in a better place by the end of the book. There needs to be some kind of motivation behind their actions, something I can understand and perhaps even relate to. Samwise Gamgee had so much love and loyalty for Frodo, and that made him my favourite hobbit 🙂

On the other hand, the biggest turn-off in any character is the P word – perfection. The last thing I want is to pick up a book, invest my time and emotional energy engaging in the story and character(s), only to find him/her in the exact same headspace, 600 pages later! I don’t want to read about a static character who is beautiful in the start of the novel and is still beautiful by the end of it. Give me some real, messy, problematic points that shake up the protagonist and compels him/her into motion. Give me something I can relate to.

With that in mind, it’s my hope that Jamilah, the protagonist in Finding Jamilah, did just that. She grew into a different young woman by the end of the story, and in all honesty, so did I!