I loved Chelsea’s post about her favorite types of characters, and she kindly let me borrow the idea for my own blog! These are the folks I most enjoy reading about:
The Principled/Steadfast Fighter
This character may fit into the generic “good guy” category, but his (or her) defining feature is dedication to what he believes is right. Characters such as Captain America, John Blake from The Dark Knight Rises, Jarrod Barkley from The Big Valley, Jane Eyre, Fanny Price, Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games, King Tirian from The Last Battle, and Puddleglum from The Silver Chair. (Gloomy as Puddleglum is, when things are on the line, he’s steadfast in his principles!)
And this kind of character doesn’t always win the battle–Travis from The Alamo is this type (though, in a twist, definitely not a generic good guy). But while winning the battle is important, for this character, doing what he believes is right is the ultimate fight. And I love these kinds of characters because they give me hope, inspire me to stand up for my principles.
The Gentle/ Good-Hearted Fighter
This is the guy who may seem like he’s too mild or gentle or soft-hearted to fight–but for these guys, Good Is Not Soft. This is the character who cares deeply about his world, his loved ones, and his morals, and because of that deep love, he fights as fiercely as any hardened warrior. Frodo and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings are the prime examples, but others are Jean Valjean, Samuel Diggs from Mercy Street, Igor from Victor Frankenstein, Fanny Price (again), and Bilbo Baggins. Possibly also Daniel Deronda. Steve Barton’s portrayal of Raoul also fits this category. Just listen to his rendition of “All I Ask of You”–he’s understated, but earnest, and you can tell that he’d be willing to walk through fire for Christine.
This character is a subset of the principled fighter, but I enjoy this type because their fierceness is unexpected. They get the upper hand because they look too tender to do any damage–and yet they ultimately care so very deeply they’re willing to lay down their lives to defend what they love. Durant from my story Gentle Fire is definitely this type.
The No-Nonsense Mentor
Forget the wise old man smoking a pipe and delivering quiet (if vague) words of wisdom; I like the mentors who tell it like it is and won’t put up with your whining, who whip ya into shape, and have a sharp wit to boot. Think Gandalf, Alfred Pennyworth, Obi-Wan from the prequels, and Captain Pellew from the Horatio Hornblower TV series. Dr. Livesey from Treasure Island kinda fits this category as well.
I think I like this type because the “wise old man” mentor type seems to deliver very vague advice and let the hero figure out the context/deeper meaning on his own. And if I were a young hero-in-training, I would be incredibly frustrated. Either tell me what to do point blank, or let me do it my way. No waffling in between those options, please. And the no-nonsense mentor does not waffle. Their advice is “take it or leave it.” That, and I love a sharp wit. 🙂
Honest, Honorable Men
These guys get labelled “bland” or “boring” because All Girls Want Bad Boys–until we’re pestered by that one boy who won’t take no for an answer, and then our distaste for honorable men comes back to bite us.
Ahem. Sorry, got sidetracked. But seriously, what’s wrong with a respectful and honest guy? Just because they lack an edgy dark side doesn’t mean they’re boring. Case in point would be Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities. Many people compare him to Sydney Carton and declare Sydney a more interesting character. But that doesn’t mean Charles is one-dimensional. He makes mistakes. He should have told his family he was heading back to France. His pride was nettled as Englishmen ridiculed the French aristocracy, the class to which he belonged–even though he had renounced his heritage. And just look at his interactions with Lucie—when alone with his beloved, this honest, straightforward, principled young man turns into a sentimental softie who calls her pet names. It’s adorable.
(And from a story analysis perspective, if Charles hadn’t been honorable and honest, Sydney would probably not have been inspired to change. Comparing himself to Charles showed him what he could be, if he just made the effort. But that’s another topic for another post.)
Other honest, honorable characters are Jarrod Barkley, Daniel Deronda, Mr. Darcy, and Edward Ferras from Sense & Sensibility, and James Green from Mercy Street. A female example would be Jane Eyre (actually, we could use more female characters in this category. I specified male characters because I respect those qualities, and I”m tired of the bad boy attraction, but women ought to be honest and honorable too.)
I love a man who takes charge (without being a bully) and who knows what to do in the situation. A man with initiative and willing to plunge right into things and get involved. I can’t express how much I love the leaders!. Characters like Jarrod Barkley, Captain America, Peter Pevensie, Aragorn, Hadley Fraser’s Raoul from The Phantom of the Opera, and Lucky Jack from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
I like the leaders because, first of all, that is the role God assigned to men. And I respect a man who embraces that role and doesn’t let the culture dictate otherwise. It’s also quite admirable when a man sees what needs to be done and steps up to the plate, takes the responsibility of handling a sticky situation and tries to solve the problems that get thrown his way.
The Tragic Hero/Antagonist
Often presented in a cautionary tale, I like the heroes who definitely have a downward arc, but who also have either a valid point about the situation or good intentions. Characters like Javert from Les Miserables: he’s often viewed as the antagonist with no room for mercy or grace in his mind–but think just how sad that is! Also, as much as I root for Valjean, he did break his parole. Javert was justified in at least locating the fugitive.
Other such characters would be Robert Angier from The Prestige (film), Dr. Jekyll from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde. Oh, and Boromir, my goodness. Possibly also Maedhros from The Silmarillion; I relate to that guy more than I should (we’re both the eldest, both responsible, both very honor/duty driven, devastated by any mistakes that violate those last two values…) And I would argue Gale Hawthorne fits into this category. Because he was determined, intelligent, intuitive, and creative. And he misused all that, even though he was trying to help win the war.
I am honestly not sure why I like this kind of character. I don’t enjoy watching someone destroy themselves–maybe it’s a combination of respect for whatever good intentions the character has, plus a sobering warning.
Silk Hiding Steel
These are the ladies who seem like products of their time (in historical fiction) or the so-hated doormats in a contemporary setting. These ladies are actually not doormats. They are quiet but firm, gentle but principled–and as such, when push comes to shove, they are unflinching, industrious, and intelligent with spines of steel. Lucie Manette, for example. She was gentle and compassionate, and she spends most of the book caring for her family. She also followed her husband to France when he was unjustly imprisoned, worked bravely in a foreign country where she was in constant danger of being also imprisoned herself, and every day, journeyed to a corner of the street where her husband might be able to see her if he could get to one of the upper windows of the prison. And she stood there for two hours to let him catch a glimpse of her when he was able to. Every day. Just to encourage her imprisoned husband and remind him that she was there for him. She also suffered no breakdowns, and she persevered through apprehension and uncertainty for two years. Oh, and the Reign of Terror was going on during this time. Lucie swoons only after her husband is unjustly imprisoned for the second time and sentenced to death. How in the world is she a weak character?
Or take Christine from The Phantom of the Opera. She seems naive and overly-trusting–but notice that she trusts only those people she considers friends. Which at first included the Phantom, but after she learns his true identity, she flees from him and never ultimately trusts him again. She also, after being lied to and betrayed by the man she considered her mentor, was not afraid to love again, and trusted Raoul to protect her (even though she disagreed with his methods later). And after all that–she remained compassionate toward the man who had hurt her so badly. Christine is awesome, guys. For deeper analysis of her character, check out my post here.
Jane Eyre also fits this Silk Hiding Steel category, and Elinor Dashwood , Fanny Price, Emma Green from Mercy Street, and Lisa Carew from the 1994 concept album of Jekyll & Hyde. Probably others I can’t think of just now. 🙂
So there you have it, some of my favorite character types! Are there any more you would add to the list?