A Novel Character

Posted by Anthony North on January 20, 2011

A good male character in a novel is not as novel as you think. Indeed, he seems to follow a simple path through the chapters. And rule number one has got to be, don’t make him nice.
Nice is yuck! Boring. Think of Pip in Great Expectations, and how boring a novel it would have been if Dickens hadn’t filled it with marvelous, eccentric, and deeply flawed personages.
The best characters are on the borderline between moral and not. Infact, much of the good novel is about how he copes with this contradiction, trying to do right, but so often failing.
And the crux of the novel is invariably about change. This is why the character must be how he is. If he had a simple, straight-forward mentality, then there would be no doubts as to his actions. It is the doubt that makes the novel great.
If I had to pick a favourite character from a novel, it would have to be Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights – very bad, but very intriguing. But also set close to the place of my birth. Which makes him so – how can I put it – fictitious.
This most passionate of romantic heroes actually exists in one of the most down-to-earth, unromantic places and communities you could find.

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