Friday, January 13, 2012

Great Characters on the Screen

I have written several blog posts recently about what makes for an interesting character.  One of my favorite parts of crafting a novel is coming up with men and women who evoke a strong reaction from the readers.  This can be both a sense of pulling for a character to succeed and cheering when he triumphs over life's greatest battles, or rooting against a person who displays despicable behavior and embodies some of the worst stereotypes he hold in our society.  Either reaction means I have done my job!

Today I want to step outside the world of literature.  Whether or not we want to admit it, many of us have thought about what it would be like to have the characters in our books brought to life on the large or small screen.  So, I want to know -- who is a character either on TV or in the movies that has made a lasting impression on you?  Who have you absolutely loved or loathed?  Who made you think, "I wish I had come up with that guy"? 

How about Gordon Gekko from the 1980s classic movie Wall Street?  Just try putting a poster of him in front of the Occupy protesters!  More than twenty yearse after the film was made, he represents everything they despise, and he does it brilliantly. 

What about Barney from How I Met Your Mother?  He's a character who on the surface seems to be nothing but a womanizer, but also reveals himself to be a dedicated friend with a soft side.  I like when different layers of a character are exposed seamlessly and work together to make the person more "real." 

Or, there's Olivia Benson from Law and Order: SVU.  We slowly learn of her troubled childhood and the emotional walls she must create now in order to do her job, and I try to take the same approach with my characters.  Revealing parts of the character a little at a time keeps the reader engaged and replicates our experiences with people we know, as we slowly build relationships in our own lives.

Now it's your turn.  Share with us a character who you think is particularly well crafted and why!

James Ross
Author of Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, Tuey's Course, Opur's Blade, and Pabby's Score
Publisher Websites: and  


Gerry Wendel said...

"Christafa" on The Sopranos. He was mean, murderous, and bad, however, he sometimes showed his sensitive side so you couldn't help but like him.

Unknown said...

I think many from the last 10 years of "must see tv" would count toward this idea. Almost all of the characters from the television show LOST would fit the bill. One of my favorites is Hurley, with his rags-to-riches-to-rags backstory and helpful, caring and thoughtful personality, he's an endearing and engaging character. (And, let's face it, how many humble and attractive fat characters do we see on the screen now-a-days?) He's got some darkness, too, and his obsession with the numbers being bad can get in the way of others solving the island's mysteries.

Another example of an interesting character is Gregory House MD from House. Love him or hate him, he's a force to be reckoned with. It's obvious that he cares more about solving the problem and has quite a bit of human kindness harbored in his vicodin-addicted form, though his passion for figuring out the answer over healing the patient gets in the way all too often.

Fascinating idea! I can't wait to hear more!

Becca Chopra said...

Some memorable women characters (Meryl Streep brings out the nuances in every character) are Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada - she could have eaten Gordon Gecko alive, and her oscar winning role of Sophie in Sophie's Choice (you really felt the character was real).

Anonymous said...

I'd say House is a favorite of mine. Despite his crude remarks and sarcasm, you watch him struggle and you know how human he is. No matter who surrounds him, he makes everything around him interesting.