Our characters may start out simple, as a fleeting whimsy but allow them time to brood and they can mature in a matter of days into full-fledged beings we’ve suddenly known all our lives. As for our readers; leave them alone with our characters for a weekend and they’ll have grown attached and formed bonds with our imaginary buddies, lovers, heroes, yes and even with our villains. Now we are forced into an intimate relationship resembling a threesome, wrestling free for all.
Hordes of people have modeled their lives after fictional characters. Great literature has the power to sway millions. Literature has been credited with crumbling nations and rewriting history. It has influenced and inspired the great, the powerful and the meek. An individual whose whole existence relies upon symbols grouped together and laid out on four shared pages that are buried among three to four hundred other novel pages, can strike a chord, so powerful with a reader that years later, we remember this seemingly insignificant character’s handful of words vividly and his actions distinctly and we quote them with an emotional tremble and awe in our voice, to our young as if this imaginary being was more important than real life dignitaries and kings. That is the power of great characterization.
On a conscious level we know they are fictional, make-believe, yet we can still be brought to tears when our beloved characters suffer pain. That is also the power of great characterization. As children we relate to our favorite, fictional characters, so much, in fairy tales, fables, short stories, poems and songs that we often play at being those characters; using our imaginations to make up our own extended adventures. That too is the magic and power of great characterization.
In literature, the depth of which the characters have been explored is often the defining parameter of rating the quality of stories. Good characterization breeds a good story. Great characterization breeds a great tale. Great characters, like great themes in literature, have timeless mannerisms; guilt, greed, love, hate. They have ageless dreams and motives, universal fears, loves and afflictions. Great characterization opens the door for great themes. Good characterization is meant to open our eyes to aspects of people we haven’t contemplated before. By helping us see people from new angles we are naturally prodded to look in the mirror and re-evaluate ourselves.
A character’s perceived persona, manifests 1st from his/her physical attributes; tall, strong, slovenly, lithe, pretty, athletic…Their values can be inferred by studying all the things they get to choice; how they dress, how they carry themselves, what they publicly declare as their passions and what they privately fear, loathe and worship with awe. A characters personality is discovered by viewing his or her actions as well as how he or she reacts and interacts with the other characters.
It’s always a pleasure for readers when a glimpse of what really makes a character tick is revealed. But, the magic can be spoiled when an author delves into the hidden psych of a character without a good enough cause. Freudian banter, no matter how enlightening must evolve in the prose naturally through the story telling.
The overall story experience of any book or tale, short or long is enhanced considerably by the depth to which the characters are revealed. The deeper the characterization, the more dramatic the themes can be. The more familiar the reader is with the characters, the more dramatic the simplest plot events will feel. A story without endearing characters is quickly forgotten. Engaging characters live on well after the last page is turned. Which is why serials are so popular.