Making Characters Memorable
One of the acid tests of a fiction writer is to make characters memorable. They should not merely be puppets but should have the rarer merit to come alive in the reader’s imagination. Some significant theorists have believed that social types can make interesting characters, and they can perhaps, but will rarely stay on in the mind as individuals. Memorable characters result from an author’s keen observation of life and people and an acute insight into human psychology. If an author believes in social types, like T. S. Eliot does, they should rather make it a blending of the social type with a psychological type. This means not only allowing them to represent their social class and status alone but also giving to them a quality or two that distinguishes them from others in their class. Every human being has some distinctive, odd, strange, endearing or off-putting qualities. These should be singled out in an otherwise generalized behaviour of that character. Just sticking to a single trait in someone’s personality can limit that character’s ability to appear real. But, on the other hand, making the generalized qualities too predominant will take away from the individuality of the character.
Making characters memorable should be uppermost on an author’s agenda. I have often felt that a great way of presenting a character is to always keep in sight and mind their weaknesses, without letting the weakness keep other traits from rising to the surface, the character should be developed. The author should always be able to see a character that he creates with the mind’s eye. The character can be a copy of a person actually known or an imaginatively created person unknown to the author. But once the idea of a character crops up in the creator’s mind the character should become clearly visible in the creator’s mind. Such a character will tend to deviate from his or her chief characteristics now and again but the basics will always remain unchanged in the creator’s mind.
When a tragic or comic occurrence takes place, the character should grow a little in response to it. People change, to an extent, with significant happenings; even though their basic behaviour remains unchanged. However, with age and maturity distinct changes can set into people’s ways of responding to the world. A tragic occurrence sometimes changes a person significantly. An author must allow life and its incidents to change a character at least slightly if not in a major way. Characters, in order to remain memorable, must retain some and let go of some of their characteristics.