Characters in our books begin their lives somewhere in the deep recesses of our brains and in our hearts. At first they are nothing more than an idea - maybe with a name, maybe not. They follow us around as we work through the mundane activities of our lives, taking on personalities with each passing day. They become part of us. They become real.
As writers, our job is to make those characters come alive for our readers as well. So how do we do this?
Every author has a different method for developing character, but I think if we look at characters who stand out as being our favorites, we'll find they have certain qualities that make them memorable. One of my favorite heroes in all the books I've read is Ari Ben Canaan from Leon Uris' EXODUS, and in some ways I think the character that Uris created has found his way into most of my heroes. Ari possessed everything my ideal hero would have: he was courageous, dedicated to his cause, willing to put his life on the line for what he believed, yet with the love of his life, he was gentle and caring.
Now, mind you, I haven't created a character who was part of the Palestine Jewish Underground, but that doesn't matter. We remember characters because we can relate to them. Maybe we see ourselves in them, even including a flaw he or she possesses, or maybe that character has qualities we'd like to have. We don't have to be a great sports star to be able to appreciate a story about a sportsman or be a movie star to appreciate a story about Hollywood. It's not only the physical ability of the athlete or the talent of the actor that we admire, but the gumption, the determination to succeed, and the dedication to what he believes he can do.
If someone asked you to name your favorite character, who would it be? And why? Think about how the author made those characters stand out for you.
As writers we want our characters to be remembered too. Do your characters have what it takes to live on after the reader closes your book?