I intensely dislike rats. I mean really really dislike them. To the point of phobia. Over the summer, I got sucked deep into Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander Series. My favorite character? A rat.
I know. It surprised me too.
Hold on a minute…it gets better. I cried over the death of a four-foot cockroach. My kids say I cry at the drop of a hat anyway, but a cockroach? Really? It’s all true.
Let me tell you, any writer that can get me to like a rat and cry for a cockroach has got characterization down.
As a new writer, I tended to overpaint my characters. The more, the better, I thought. In rewrites, I learned how to back off, to let a few tiny strokes take the place of a bucket. I still tend to paint in absolutes—all good or all bad. I’m working on that. I also still occasionally come out with a cardboard cutout character—it’s so easy to just create somebody to fill space.
Every day I learn a little more. I may never be able to make you love a rat or cry for a cockroach but I keep trying.
Some of my favorite characters from recent reads? Ripred the rat from Gregor the Overlander. Severus Snape from Harry Potter. Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings. Stuart Redman from The Stand. Cole and Hitch from Appaloosa. Emma Graham from Hotel Paradise. Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.
Who are your favorite characters? Who is an author who can make you like the unlikeable?