Monday, October 29, 2012

What Makes A Great Character?

Hello, reader!  I’ll be posting again on Thursday with my report card of how I did on my resolutions for October, but for today, I’m going to take a look at what makes a good character.  I’ll be using characters from books as well as games as examples, but I’ll do my best not to let any spoilers slip.

A Sense of Humor

I know from experience in writing that it’s really hard to make a character with absolutely no funny bone in their body.  It’s also hard to like a character like that because they don’t seem very realistic.  Sure, there are people out there that don’t make a lot of jokes, but a good character has to have at least a small sense of humor to be likable to me.  Here’s some characters known for their sense of humor.

Varric Tethras from Dragon Age 2

Although the quality of the Dragon Age sequel is a matter of some debate amongst gamers, when it comes to Dragon Age 2, everyone can agree on one thing: Varric is one of the best characters ever created.  Why do people like him so much?  It’s not because he’s crazy good in a fight or has a heart-wrenching past.  No, the reason people like him is simple; he’s funny.  His goofy lines add a bit of levity to an otherwise rather dark, serious game, and it’s a nice contrast. 
Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson & The Olympians

Ever had a flying burrito hit you? Well, it's a deadly projectile, right up there with cannonballs and grenades."

I liked this series of books a lot, and Percy was definitely one of my favorite characters because he was just so goofy.  He goes through some pretty crazy stuff in the course of the series, but never loses his sense of humor, which makes him a great example of this trait. 


It’s difficult to like a character that you can’t relate to.  Imagine if a character was perfect and nothing ever went wrong in their life.  Yeah, it’d be a pretty boring story, wouldn’t it?  Besides that, life certainly doesn’t happen that way.  Even though they can sometimes be annoying, faults are a part of a good character.  Here’s some characters that have a fairly obvious fault.  

Starkiller from The Force Unleashed

"I am my Master's weapon. I lay waste to all that stands in his path."

Galen Marek, or “Starkiller” is an interesting character.  As a young child, he was abducted by Darth Vader and trained in secret as his apprentice.  Once Vader deemed him strong enough, he was sent to assassinate any of the Jedi Order that remained.  Obviously, with someone like Darth Vader as a father figure, Starkiller’s fault is anger.  It leads him to make a lot of mistakes and almost ruins his life.  It also makes a really great game, but I’ll let you find that out for yourself.

Emma from Jane Austen’s “Emma”

“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other."

I liked the book Emma, but to be honest, Emma herself was often rather snobbish.  Even Jane Austen said of Emma: “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”  Emma is a wealthy, beautiful, privileged young woman who is very polite in public, but who also complains in private of having to visit the kindly but rather long-winded Miss Bates.  This fault really makes sense for a person in Emma’s position, though, and she eventually sees the error of her ways.

A Unique Trait 

Although every good character has to have faults, all my favorite characters also have something special about them.  It can be a little thing, it doesn’t have to be a superpower, but they have to have something about them that distinguishes them from the rest of the pack.  

Mission Vao from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

“Piece of cake. I wonder when people will stop underestimating me?”

 Mission is a girl of fourteen when you meet her in the game, but she’s not like a normal fourteen-year-old by any means.  First of all, she lives in the dangerous underbelly of a large, city-covered planet.  Warring gangs, dangerous diseases and an alien-hating population are only a few of her problems.  She manages to get by with the help of her impressive skills with computers, security doors and stealth.  Oh, and her friend Zalbaar, a wookiee.  If that didn’t make her unique enough, she also has the guts to insult Sith soldiers to their faces.

Sam from The Lord of the Rings

“[…] there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.”

Samwise Gamgee’s just a gardener, faithfully helping his employer on this quest to destroy the ring that could bring about the end of the world as they know it.  Except, in doing that, Sam proves that he’s not just a gardener.  It’s even more evident in the books that Frodo would have given up his quest if he hadn’t had Sam around.  While Sam isn’t heir to the throne of Gondor and he doesn’t have any cool wizard spells, he’s still an awesome character.  Why?  Because he’s an encourager, and that makes him pretty special in my book.

What are some of your favorite characters, and why?


  1. Well I’m going to put Finnick Odair on the top of my list (The hungergames catching fire) he’s one of those people who from the start you can tell he’s not what he seems, on the outside looking in it would seem that he is simply a playboy who doesn’t care about much just want’s a good show in front of the cameras but that can’t be farther from the truth. Now I’m not going to give a lot away because he MAKES the last two books (In this fans opinion) but 1 he turns into besides Peta, Katniss’ most important supporter and friend, and 2 he could have been and love very differently but he loved the crazy girl from his district and that just makes me smile every time I read it.

    That's one of mine for sure.

    1. Yes, Finnick is probably my favorite character from The Hunger Games series. He had a personality that kept me guessing.