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View Full Version : Are there traits characters have to have?



Susan Breen
11-23-2008, 12:29 AM
I'm reading a very interesting book on revision by James Smart Bell and he says that successful characters should have "grit, wit and It,"--"it" meaning that they have some quality of attractiveness, physical or otherwise. Do you think that's true? I've started making a list of my favorite characters, but I've only got so far as Atticus Finch and Hannibal Lechter. So far it's true.

ZeroFlowne
11-23-2008, 07:22 AM
Successful as a character, or successful within the story?

A character does need to be powerful (smart, charming, rich, gutsy, etc) to succeed in whatever he or she is attempting in the story. Generally, characters like that are also interesting to the reader, because they tend to accomplish wonderful things. However, characters without grit wit and it can exist and be interesting, if only to watch them fall.

katiemac
11-23-2008, 07:37 AM
I'm reading a very interesting book on revision by James Smart Bell and he says that successful characters should have "grit, wit and It,"--"it" meaning that they have some quality of attractiveness, physical or otherwise. Do you think that's true? I've started making a list of my favorite characters, but I've only got so far as Atticus Finch and Hannibal Lechter. So far it's true.

Physical attractiveness really gets me nowhere in the book, considering I can't see the characters. But if their attractiveness is imperative to the story, then I suppose it works. I agree with the "otherwise," but that IT factor is always hard to define.

Soccer Mom
11-23-2008, 07:48 AM
A character certainly needs something to be compelling, but it need not be physical beauty or the gift of persuasion. In fact, a character who is too beautiful, too witty, too gritty and too damn successful is boring.

I prefer a more realistic character with flaws and imperfections to a Mary Sue. I like to see someone who fails occasionally or makes stupid mistakes and must suffer the consequences.

Ken
11-23-2008, 07:54 AM
...I could see this being true in many mainstream novels.

ps The only one who truly had "it" was Clara Bow :-)

tehuti88
11-23-2008, 06:10 PM
If "It" can be taken to mean, any sort of quality that attracts the reader to the character in terms of being interested in reading about them, then I'd agree with that point, all (important) characters should have some form of "It," otherwise, why read about them? However, I certainly wouldn't limit "It" to just attraction in the physical/personality sense (whatever "It" is will vary widely by reader), and as for grit and wit, well, there are plenty of gritless and witless characters out there who are still interesting (if only because they lack grit or wit).

So I'd say, definitely yes to one out of three; it depends with the other two.

scarletpeaches
11-23-2008, 06:15 PM
Unattractive people are more interesting.

This means I am plagued by accusations of being boring. :D

Claudia Gray
11-23-2008, 06:54 PM
I'm not entirely sure about "wit" -- although none of the truly great books I can think of are without it, I can think of some great characters who don't possess it. (For one example, Scarlett O'Hara's sense of humor is extremely limited.) However, those characters are presented with wit, either through the author's voice or through the observations and comments of those around them, so I suppose that's still an element of what the author is doing with the character.

maestrowork
11-23-2008, 09:39 PM
A character can be anything. But I think there is conventional wisdom on memorable characters. To me, a memorable character (main or secondary) should have:

- a sense of humor. Even the villains. Maybe they're not humorous themselves (Darth Vader, for example), but the situations they bring forth could use a sense of humor. And no one has better sense of humor than, say, Hannibal Lecter.

- a strong purpose/desire/want/conviction. People just love characters with a strong will, instead of someone just sitting there like a lump.

- action. It's not only what they want, but also what they do to get what they want.

Nivarion
11-24-2008, 12:18 AM
something that is a noticeable flaw. it doesn't have to be big, just an imperfection.

take me for example, i have trouble making my writing match what i am trying to say like i mean to say it. it takes me a long time to make sure that something is grammatically and meaning wise correct. since i often don't take the time, i look like and @$$ when i don't mean to, and then since i don't realize that i wrote it wrong, i look like a bigger @$$ for not apologizing.

any little flaw, it doesn't need to be big. it can be a small as noting that they never dotting their I's, to the character being a roaring drunk.