“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”
― J. D. Salinger
When it comes to movies, comic books, TV shows, and some of the greatest novels out there, there is always something in common that makes them great. What makes them so great are the characters. Batman, Superman, the joker, Atticus Finch, Harry Potter all these characters have made a lasting impact in the hearts and minds of many.
But what makes them so special? What makes them so interesting and worth routing or in some cases Booing at?
Character design and character development are one of the most crucial elements of a good story and memorable characters. These characters embody something that makes the readers feel that this character could be something be them a menace to society or someone that could be their best friend. But what makes a good character?
According to Tess Barry, an undergrad creative writing teacher at Carlow University “realism” is what makes them so iconic. By being realistic, these characters become something tangible something that you could see on the nightly news or maybe someone you’ve seen walking down the street. Characters like Atticus Finch, for example, display the quality characteristics of what a good father and man embody.
He understands the risk of representing a controversial case and knows that he puts his life and his kid’s life in danger but uses it to teach and show his kids what is right and wrong and shows the town also.
Tess also talked about the Author J.D. Salinger and who he commented on one of his famous characters Holden Caulfield saying “I thought he was a goddamn Phony”
This also branches into the world of comic books. Take for instance the villain the Joker. At first, the joker was just a crazed clown with no backstory and just wanted to defeat Batman.
Many people liked the joker; he was a classic villain; however, there was not much to like about him other than a crazy clown. Now the Joker not only has a backstory, but his backstory is considered one of the best and features many aspects that make it so realistic it’s scary. The joker monologues about one bad day that made him snap.
You can spend five minutes on the news and see just how many people experience these bad days situation’s and lose control of themselves. Characters like the joker have gone through such a redesign to make them the iconic characters they are now.
Jeff Yan Dora comic book store owner mentions that the design in writing for comics books has always been a strange one. Jeff commented on how comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would get together to develop the dialogue and story of their comic book stories.
Avengers Endgame has made 1.2 billion dollars in its debut. This is from the culmination of over 22 years worth of character building and story arcs.
While many would notice associate comic books and superheroes to be an accurate medium for where good writing and character design comes from it is one of the best mediums. While comic books like Spider-man, Batman, and others deal with superheroes fighting for truth and justice, it is imperative that these characters have a strong background and design.
Many people can relate to the idea of a poor teenager who is picked on most of the times using newfound abilities to help people in need and defend the innocent. And just the opposite is true of the villains in these stories as some of the characters are pushed to the brink and are driven to their evil deeds. Many villains in comic books can be considered tragic characters whose background deals with past trauma or event that gives them no other alternative.
Despite all this one thing is certain and that is the characters that embody these traits and are the more popular ones are the more realistic ones. This is something that the makers of these comics believed and something that many writers also believe in.
Jessica Stroschien is a Psychology major at Carlow University and writes in her spare time. When asked about what makes characters likable she told about how many of the characters she like have a believable side to them. This allows the reader to project and also not be to lose in a world of make-believe. When asked what she disliked about a character Jessica went on to mention how she disliked characters who were weak-willed and just let change happened and not try to stand in its way. But what about these characters made them so dislikable was that it was unrealistic.
When faced with something life-changing many people resist or fight against this, however, the few characters that let this happen aggravate Jessica and make them an instantly unlikable character. When asked what type of character does Jessica write into her stories she talked about how the characters she used are often an average joe that doesn’t have much going for them.
One of the main things about characters and character writing is that the reader can sometimes project themselves or someone else on too these characters. Without this, the characters aren’t real and are in a sense a fake. Some would say why does this matter in fiction but this is one of the most crucial parts. Fiction at its core is an escape from reality but at the same time is grounded in some semblance of realism as the reader needs to be able to associate some aspects of their lives into it.
Without this, The reader has no way of associating which leaves the world, and its characters. While fiction allows the reader to explore what if’s or see new worlds, certain aspects remain true. Realistic characters are one of these truths.
Ultimately character design is up to the creator, and it is up to their minute of the story to set everything right and in motion. While this is key, it is important to see trends and know that the most iconic characters in the world of fiction have things in common. The common trait in these characters is realism in their design. Without this, the characters seem fake and can detract from the story.