Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | March 12, 2013

For The Love Of Character

This last week I have been busy working on characters in my MG (Middle Grade) WIP (Work-In-Progress). I should state immediately that this blog post is not about how to write characters. In my opinion, the best thing any writer can do is buy Donald Maass’ WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK, read it cover to cover and do all the exercises. I have been busily stuffing my characters in, giving them a good going over and what pops out are people. It’s absolutely brilliant.

No, this blog post is inspired by my fascination with how real some characters become and how important they become to some people.

My daughter has loved JRR Tolkien’s book THE HOBBIT for years. Years ago, when audiobooks were still on tape, I was listening to the THE HOBBIT in the kitchen and thought her playing in another room. Suddenly the book shut off and she was disappearing around the corner with both tapes and tape player. At six she had discovered the wonder of THE HOBBIT.

She listened to the book over and over and also had me read it to her. She loved the dwarves and not only could name them but also could tell me about each. In a book with fifteen important characters somehow Tolkien had created an insane number of memorable individuals.

When the movie came out this last December she worked hard so we would take her the first weekend. She was excited but we also talked about how we were both worried that the dwarves somehow wouldn’t be the individual characters they were in the book. How could Thorin, Fili, Kili, Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Oin, Gloin, Nori, Dori and Ori all be portrayed within the movie without losing something?

The fact that the movie is not one movie but three went a good way to reassuring her that it wasn’t going to be a Hobbit-lite. She was delighted with the movie. The story wasn’t hurried and with the inclusion of the information from the appendixes she felt it was enriched.

And the characters were there. Every last loved dwarf made some sort of impression (though thus far I think Nori’s chain-mail cardigan is our outright favorite).

Why do some characters leave us with the impression that they are real people? I’d love to know what other characters from novels you find are so real they are all but tangible.

A post script – my daughter has begun to read THE HOBBIT to her four-year-old brother. He is entranced with the book and Bombur is his favorite character. He’s too young to see the movie but laughed hysterically when she showed him a picture from the film. Now whenever he meets a man he likes his best compliment is ‘You’re just like Bombour – he’s my favorite!” He doesn’t understand why anyone would find it less than thrilling to be compared to such a character. For him the character matters and not the fact that he’s the size of an elephant.

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