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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Soup For You!

Hello! I'm the Countess of Whimsy, but you may refer to me as my lady. Uh, I mean Samantha. My title is a testament to a very important life lesson handed down to me by my dear old dad. While aging is unavoidable, maturity is completely optional. I love laughter, fun and bringing a smile to others, especially in my writing. But enough about me. Let's talk about lunch.

There is this great little coffee shop in my area that makes the most fantastic soup. Whenever I have the opportunity, I love to stop for a quick lunch. Invariably, the same woman waits on me, and I get the distinct impression the simple fact that I’m breathing irritates her. (I suppose in the Midwest, people would call her stoic, although I’ve seen many people of stoic descent smile without their faces actually cracking. There really is nothing to fear, so flash those pearly whites.)

Still, I go back to the coffee shop despite this lady's obvious disdain. Why? Because the soup is awesome! In fact, I would allow her to hurl insults at me first, and then pay double just to get a bowl. It is that good. Which got me thinking about Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. NO SOUP FOR YOU!

Whether you were a fan of the show or not, you have to agree, the characters are memorable. True characters are what I love in television, movies, and especially in books. I don’t care for perfection. Yawn! Novels with perfect heroes and heroines tend to become like one of those insert name type of things like where your voicemail system makes you record your name.

Bored and slightly hostile employee’s voice: Flubberhead McGee* Chipper computer voice: is on the phone. Please leave a message.

What I mean by this is you can’t tell one character from another, aside from them having different names.

To me, memorable characters are infused with unique qualities and wrestle with issues like real people. I bet if you followed the show Seinfeld, you could easily name at least one defining characteristic about each main character, and some secondary ones.

Jerry: Neat freak. Loves Superman.

Elaine: Bad dancer. Says, “Shut up!” and shoves people. Kowtows to authority figures.

George: Cheap. Controlled by parents. Serial dumpee.
Kramer: Unpredictable. Mysterious. Eats Jerry’s food.

The same thing should be true of the well-written romantic hero and heroine. If you make a laundry list of your main and secondary characters, do they each have at least one or two unique qualities? If not, perhaps the character could use a little more depth.

Think about a favorite character in literature,a movie or television that stands out in your mind. What makes that person memorable? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

* Only dh, our kids and I have a true appreciation for old Flubberhead.


  1. Great blog, my lady. Characterization is hard for me so you gave me some points to keep in mind.

  2. No soup for you!

    I was never a big Seinfeld fan, but you're right--those characters are ones that no one can ever quite get out of their heads, because of their distinctive qualities. That's definitely something to keep in mind when creating our own characters.

  3. Scarlet O'Hara - selfish, strong, determined, fiddledede(sp), several husbands, unconventional, breaks rules, doesn't really care what anyone thinks. She is probably my favorite character of all time.

  4. Not only did I love Seinfeld, I love Curb Your Enthusiasm just as much. Larry David created the Seinfeld sitcome along with Jerry and you need only view one episode to realize George was based completely on Mr. David. His personality also bears a strinking resemblence to my ex-husband. After watching a couple episodes of Curb, I told him he was exactly like Larry David. He didn't talk to me for 2 days. How very George of him.

  5. Great blog! You really made me think about my characters and what I would say their defining characteristics are. I think giving each character several defining characterisitcs from the start is an exercise I am going to purposely do from now on as I write. So thanks a million!

  6. Well, even Dexter has romance in his life:) And he is most memorable...

  7. Dexter Morgan is a work of art! A loveable serial killer? Who would have ever guessed? And Scarlet can never be forgotten. Hmm... I wonder if it is the evil ones we most remember.

  8. Amy stole mine! I adore Scarlet, even though she's selfish and horribly self-centered. I love watching her transformation from spoiled brat to strong, determined and independent. Yet she never quite loses that je ne sais qua that makes her *her*. Miss Mitchell certainly knew what she was doing when she wrote that character and Vivian certainly knew how to bring her to life. I only hope one day I'll write a character(s) who is just a smidgen as memorable as Miss Scarlet.

  9. My Lady Samantha,

    What great insight! Strong and unique characters make a lasting impression on me much more that the plot itself sometimes. Like you, I LOVE the quirky characters the best!

    I think that's why I'm such a HUGE fan of John Hughes. His characters are unique but also lovable & relateable. Hughes did an excellent job of creating great ensemble casts that were memorable in every way! Some of my fav charaters are - Farmer Ted, the Geek in "16 Candles", Molly Ringwald as "Samantha Baker", Cousin Eddie of the "Vacation" movies, Bender from "Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller" himself!

    I miss John Hughes & his genius for creating great characters! The only thing lately that I've found that in comparison is GLEE!

    Sherwood, AR

  10. I find characterization is hard for me too, I tend to stick with the same type of characters. I'm working on branching off to try something new so we'll see. Great blog! I also have to agree that Scarlet is perhaps the most memorable character ever made. Years from now people will still know her name. Margrete Mitchell did a hell of a job and it's truly sad that Gone with the Wind was her only story. I would've loved to read something else by her.

  11. And the characters created by John Hughes are timeless, although their clothing is not. :) I watched "Breakfast Club" again this summer and still teared up. Hughes incapsulated teenage angst at it's best. I love how he always offered movie goers a sense of hope at the end. The scene between Samantha and Jake sitting on the table with the birthday cake in "Sixteen Candles" gives me goosebumps.

    Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. I always love to hear from you.

  12. I absolutely love your humour! Such a silly widgeon. The first TV character that springs to mind is Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) in Pride and Prejudice. I had thought I'd put that obsession behind me but I think I might need more therapy. LOL.

    In romantic fiction, Sebastian from Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas always springs to mind as a completely unabashed hedonist. I love him too. *sigh* Where's the phone - I do need that appointment.

  13. Wonderful post, milady. As a forensic profiler, I take a forensic approach to character development and nothing pulls me out of a story quicker than a character acting "out of character." So glad to find your site posted on textnovel. I was beginning to think I was the only one over there posting historicals. Though paranormals seem to be more in vogue at that site.
    Happy Writing!

  14. Ooh, a forensic profiler! How interesting. I haven't seen many historicals on TN either, but I'm so happy to meet another author. Now I will have to pop over and check out your story. Thanks for visiting. :)