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Monday, December 13, 2010

Character Stew

How do you create memorable characters?

What characters from movies or books stand out to you? Which ones do you still remember after many years? Which ones do you like to write?

I enjoy quirky, humorous, or outlandish characters, like...

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Brian Blessed as Long John Silver in Return to Treasure Island
Niles Crane in Frasier
Anne in Anne of Green Gables
The old guys in IQ
Granny from the old Beverly Hillbillies
Bill Cosby in anything!

These are the types of characters I like writing into my plays.

We all have our favorite characters that touch our hearts—whether with tears or a shared memory or a good old belly laugh. But which ones will we remember for years to come? These are the ones I call “the greats.”

I've toyed with the idea of writing a play with all of the best characters I have ever written. As I ponder the characters I've created for the stage, I would have to include the gaseous, belching Uncle Floyd from Aunt Polly's Demise, the old guy, Sonny, who always wants to go on a vacation in Tales of a Time Machine, Meg Tanner, the girl who rescues orphans, from Secret of the Forest, and King Kristof, the peaceable king who rises up to defeat the enemy, from The Island of Shalamar. Uncle Floyd and Sonny would cruise in as the humor, King Kristof would be at the heart of the story, and Meg Tanner would shine as the hero. These and a few more would become my “Character Stew.”

How would I cross time and place, medieval to modern? I don't have that figured out. Maybe that's where a good old-fashioned time machine would come in handy!

As I work on my current writing project—At the Malt Shoppe, a 50's musical comedyI strive to have amazingly memorable characters who will live the story. I want to tap into emotion and humor and heart. I want the audience to remember it next year, and the year after.

Any story, whether in a book, a movie, or a play, must have a cast of memorable characters for people to recall it years later. A story without strong characters will be forgotten. It will be weak and boring. We've all watched movies or read books where this was the case. Even excellent writing, without good characters, will fall painfully short of touching hearts. And none of us want that to happen.

Who would you put in your “Character Stew”?


  1. Mary,
    Great post. I love Niles!!

  2. Thanks, Patti! I love Niles too. He is such a funny character. Just his facial expressions make me laugh.

  3. Frasier's Niles, Will and Grace's Jack and Karen, Bronte's Jane, Harper's Scout and Atticus and Jem and Boo. There are so many of them!