Michille: Favorite Characters

Dream A Little Dream by Susan Ellizabeth PhillipsOne of the reasons that I like reading and writing romance is the character-driven nature of the stories. I like character arc. One of the reasons that I don’t usual watch TV series is the lack of character arc in most of them. If the focus of the show is on, say, solving crimes, like Law and Order or Criminal Minds, I don’t get annoyed with lack of character growth. I do get annoyed when it takes 5 or 6 seasons for two people who clearly have spark to get together. I understand why it takes that long, I just don’t like it so I don’t watch it.

I have favorite characters and there are usually the books that I go back and re-read, particularly when I’m struggling with my own character’s arc. What was the character like in the beginning? How was he/she changed at the end? How did the author show the change? Here are some of my favorites:

Gabe in Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. The first time I read this, I didn’t like it. For some reason, a couple years later, it popped into my head and I wanted to read it again. The second time, I loved it. Gabe is closed off from his family, depressed, and hiding out from living a full life by refurbishing an old drive-in, rather than renewing his vet practice. SEP gives him a good reason and it is understandable. Enter Rachel. She’s been through her own personal ringer, but she continues to fight with resourcefulness and spunk. Gabe initially tries to break her and when that doesn’t work, he realizes she’s tougher than he is. Although he acts like a jerk for a fair portion of the book, from the beginning the reader knows he is a caretaker. He provides Rachel with a house, car, job, day care, and food. In watching Rachel struggle through her life as it stands, he gradually comes around, drops the asshat act, and is in a better place at the end.

Royce in Angels Fall by Nora Roberts. Nora Roberts does a great job with traumatized heroines. Nell in Dance Upon the Air and Caroline in Carnal Innocence are other of Roberts traumatized heroines that I like. Royce’s arc is a journey pulling her out of post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s a fighter, but she doesn’t think she is. Part of that is due to being gaslighted so that she thinks she still crazy. She gradually overcomes her fears and faces her neuroses by facing them down and coming out on the other side. She usually pats herself on the back when she has done so, which is one of the things I like about her. She doesn’t (always) beat herself up when she has a misstep.

Emma in Prince of Dreams by Lisa Kleypas. I should note, Emma, and the hero Nicholas,  are not favorite characters, but they both have fabulous character arcs. Emma started her arc as a selfish, spoiled brat. She blames everyone around her for what isn’t right in her life and she has very low self-esteem. She gets jilted, blames her father (actually says, “I hate you,” to him which is, IMHO, immature). She then marries an asshat (like Gabe, he has his reasons) against her families wishes and then lives in self-imposed isolation from her family in her new marriage.  She realizes early in the marriage that her family was right and she is so screwed, but her plucky, feisty nature has her fighting back and making the best of a bad situation (I got myself into this, now I’ve got to make the best of it). Her work with abused animals helps her see why the people around her behave the way they do and the windows into others souls helps her to see her faults and shortcomings and fix them, and to see others’ faults and shortcomings and forgive them. Kleypas has an added bonus of having Emma be with a secret beau in the beginning who is very much like her. In the end, he hasn’t changed and the reader can see clearly the changes in Emma.

Who are some of your favorite characters and why?

6 thoughts on “Michille: Favorite Characters

  1. I think SEP writes wonderful characters. I like Dream A Little Dream, but it’s not my favourite, because I have an aversion to plot moppets, even well-written ones like Rachel’s son, plus there are some plot twists at the end that I’m not totally sure about. I love Rachel and Gabe on the page together, though. Come to think of it, I love most of SEP’s heroes and heroines, though I think I’m done with Heaven, Texas after we all spent nearly a year picking it apart and arguing about it in class.

    I’m really enjoying Ilona Andrews’ books at the moment. Her Kate Daniels series is up to seven books (eighth one due in August and I’m really looking forward to it). The heroine grows and changes with every book, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

    • I agree on the Edward thing and Gabe didn’t treat him well at all. I like most of SEP’s character’s, too. I didn’t think Bobby Tom changed all the much. That was Gracie’s story and she did change. And now, darnit, another author to add to my TBR pile. It never gets any shorter.

  2. One of my most favorite characters is Miles Vorkosigan. He’s a guy who grows and grows and grows throughout the series, and I find it fascinating. He starts out as a typical kid, and thinks he knows everything and can do anything — in fact, he hijacks a mercenary outfit and sets himself up as a space admiral after failing the physicals to military school (through a dumb mistake on his part).

    He’s got kind of a reverse character arc — he learns he’s got limitations that he must respect, but he also learns how to be as big as he possibly can be within those limitations. He grows into a sort of satisfaction with his place in the universe. I’ll talk a little about that and how description ties into it on Saturday, I think.

    His mom is another one of those characters — not a person growing up and out, per se, but growing more into herself, and deeper.

    It’s kind of funny — I think a lot of science fiction heroes come from a very competent place.

    In romance, the women are often a complete mess. I love Min from “Bet Me” because she’s really good at her job and no-nonsense, but her love-life is a mess, and she’s got a lot of room to grow as far as trust and choosing what’s right for her. (And she grows beautifully.)

    Fantasy? A lot of the fantasy I like has competent women who are emotionally stunted for some reason or the other — usually because they are a weirdo in a conservative society, and the story is often about how they find their own kind of people when they escape to the big city (and usually wizard school). I do tend to roll my eyes at that these days, but when I was younger, it was something that I was processing myself, and I ate that stuff up.

    Mystery? The stuff I like usually has a traumatized hero or heroine who has no interest in relationships, just in doing the job properly. I really enjoyed the Wimsy/Vane romance in Dorothy Sayer’s books, but it did take forever to develop. Both of them had a lot of baggage to sort before they could be together, and then there were those MYSTERIES taking up a lot of page space, LOL. I enjoy the interaction of the characters as much as their growth, I guess.

  3. Love Eve Dallas in Nora’s In Death series. And, over in the women’s fiction genre (because despite the industry profiles, there are a few of us who like both) I love any character by Joshilynn Jackson. And I love Lou Clark in You Before Me by Jo Jo Moyes. Same reason for all of them–character arc.

    • I’ve never read any of the JD Robb stories. I don’t really like futuristic stuff. There is an article in the new RWR magazine about character growth in which it is referred to as “a basic story requirement.”

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