As a lifetime nerd, I admit to being a big fan of Sci-Fi TV series, with “Dr. Who” (Tom Baker, of course, though I liked David Tennant more recently) and “Blake’s 7” on my short list of favorites. On a day net-surfing for DVD’s of the old “Blake’s 7” series, I was irritated by the fact I couldn’t get the series that could be shown on visual devices in the US. Yes, I spent a summer in London, fried my blow dryer with one of those 220/120 AC adapters, but somehow forgot that our small appliances are incompatible.
Since I couldn’t get something I wanted instantly (what an outrage!) I began thinking about why I liked the series so much. After a minimal amount of reading and YouTube cruising, the answer was quite simple: The characters. It was not the cartoon-like effects, not the costumes, not the episodes, but the show as a whole. When I think of “Blake’s 7,” I think about the characters: Smart-aleck Avon, rebellious Blake, competent Dana, Blake-follower Jenna, beautiful Soolin, and the show-stealer evil, love-to-hate Servalan. Though the series was short-lived, it got critical acclaim because of strong characterization.
How do we define “strong characterization?” Answer: Making characters memorable. My TV obsession later evolved into film preference. Following any film or novel, I ask myself which characters do I remember the most. Be it a large or small part, protagonist or antagonist, I like characters that I remember.
While in fiction we need a touch of realism (sometimes), it need not be so realistic that we’re experiencing a conversation over the weather in the workplace. What I find in strong characters is not necessarily a tough kick-butt, but a consistent character able to keep his/her gloss. The reader gets to know them well enough to predict their actions, but still enough left unknown for the unexpected.
A question in my novellas often comes up that I don’t develop all of the characters as thoroughly as others. But in a non-epic action novella, there’s only a little room and a few words to work with. I develop the lead characters, but the supporting characters dictate their actions. For example, in “Children of Discord,” Shevata was moved to take her first steps to re-claim her humanity after witnessing the relationship between lesser-developed characters Peter, Emeria, and Stephen.
Of the endless great experiences of reading, I continue to appreciate the various methods writers use to enhance the story. Some authors create beautiful backdrops; others create horror that make me jump out of my chair, (“Seed” by Ania Ahlborn). But when all is said and done, to me, it’s the characters we remember the most, and they follow us as we create our own worlds for our readers.