I was thinking about doing a top 10 list of favorite book characters I have been exposed to just this year (meaning not Austen or Austen-adaptation characters, since I’m already really familiar with them outside of their books, nor characters from continuing series that I have already read), and when I jotted down my list, I was surprised by how few books were represented.
From the Grisha trilogy: (1) Mal, (2) Alina, and (3) Sturmhond
From Harry Potter: (4) Harry Potter, (5) Ron, and (6) Hermione
From Seraphina: (7) Seraphina and (8) Kiggs
From Across a Star-Swept Sea: (9) Persis and (10) Justen
I’ve read more than four books/series with characters that were new to me this year, so why did the other characters just not stand out to me? What makes a character a favorite? Here are some things that I personally gravitate towards…
The reason why I have always liked Jo March (Little Women) so much was because I could relate to her. She was a tomboy who loved to write and act out stories. I wasn’t exactly a tomboy, but I was far from prissy, and I definitely related to her love of stories and writing. I often connect with characters who are writers, have a personality similar to mine, enjoy the same things I do, etc.
I know this can be vague, but I’ll explain what this means to me personally. I like people I can relate with, as mentioned above, but I also like people who balance me, or people who are just kind. And when it comes to book boys (or real-life guys for that matter), forget bad boys. I love the good guys, the sweet gentlemen. This is why I love Peeta so much, and root for Lincoln Lee in Fringe season 4. Good guys don’t finish last in my book! And then there are those people that are so likable because of their nature and good heart, like Cinna in The Hunger Games. With girls, a lot of time I find sweet, naive girls likable, like Cress, because they just seem so pure-hearted!
Fan art of Alina by Claire, can be found here
This doesn’t necessarily mean physically strong, but able to hold their own when times are tough. Obviously Katniss is an example of this, though she does have weak moments, but I think that’s also important because it’s human. I also think of both Alina and Mal in The Grisha Trilogy, who both struggle but are able to keep going, no matter how bad things get for them (and they get BAD). We root for characters who keep going.
I really, really, REALLY appreciate when a character is capable, when they can put the pieces together and figure things out, and I don’t feel the need to yell at them for their dumb decisions. Sometimes these characters are WAY smarter than me, like Sherlock Holmes, which I can appreciate, and sometimes their intelligence might feel more equal to mine, though they may be better versed in a particular area than I am. Either way, intelligence is always welcome as I don’t have to become so frustrated with the character!
6. Otherwise Interesting
Some characters are just interesting in a way that I can’t describe. Sometimes they’re a bit eccentric or quirky, sometimes they have a haunting backstory, sometimes they just have that something that can’t be explained, like Effie or Caesar from The Hunger Games.
7. Positive Character Arc
Sometimes we don’t love a character from the start or might not understand them at first, but as we see them grow through their journey, they become likable, or we empathize with their plight and grow endeared towards them. Like with Jane Austen’s Emma, we see the main character learning from her mistakes and striving to be a better person in turn. By the end when she opens up her heart and accepts others, we in turn have grown to care for her.
For me personally, a character usually needs to have at least two or three of these traits for me to really latch onto them and continue to think fondly of them long after I finish their story.
What about you? What makes a character your favorite?