Jeanne: Character Signatures

I was out for my morning walk one day last week and listening to the soundtrack from Les Miserables when I got to thinking about how each of the major characters have a clearly identifiable musical signature, a theme that, when you hear it, you know the front-and-center character is Javert, or Jean Valjean, or Eponyme, or whoever. Which in turn made me wonder how that translates in written works.

Each of my main characters has one or more identifiers, a brand, if you will. For Lilith, it’s her stilettos. For Satan, it’s his skin, which cycles through various wine colors (from a blush rose to a pinot grigio) as his mood darkens.

Dara, the protagonist in The Demon Always Wins, was notable for the burn scars that disfigured her collarbones and the backs of her hands (unless you were a demon who found them strangely alluring). Belial, the hero from that same book, was identifiable by his signature scent, a mix of vanilla and petrichor–the smell of fresh rain after a long, dry period.

Keeffe, the artist in The Demon’s in the Details, always smelled of paint and turpentine. Bad, her computer-like boyfriend, was always pushing his glasses up on his nose.

In my yet-to-be released Contemporary romance, Girl’s Best Friend, Taylor is a former dancer, and even though a severe injury means she’ll never dance again, she still moves with the grace of a dancer.

What signature traits have you read or written that have really stuck with you?

10 thoughts on “Jeanne: Character Signatures

      • Les Mis means a lot to me- it is how my love of musicals became a passion. That signature thing makes more sense in the musical world.

        Just more difficult to figure out with books. I actually am writing books myself.

        • It is more difficult to recognize in books. And many authors don’t include signatures for their characters. It was just one of those things that hopped into my head and I thought I’d share it.

          BTW–welcome fellow author! We’re glad you’re here!

  1. I like a character with signature traits, especially if it tells the reader something insightful about him/her and bonus points for other characters’ reactions. Like Dara’s burn scars, and Belial’s reaction to them. So much subtext there, I loved it 🙂

    I have a couple of novellas on the go and the main character in both is Daire–in one story he’s heir to the throne of the principality of Caldermor, in the other he’s crown prince. He’s a total peacock–he loves clothes, and bright colors, and fine fabrics, but he also uses them as armor. I’m a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of person, but I love imagining and writing about Daire’s gaudy wardrobe. I’m a member of the V&A museum here in London–they have fabulous clothes and a blog with the most gorgeous images and insights, so I’m never short of inspiration.

  2. Interesting that you mention dancing. I always think of the girl in Flashdance…when she was nervous, she’d move her foot so it was on pointe, then not, then on pointe again, then not.

    In The Unknown Ajax, Hugo rubs his nose a lot. In A Bollywood Affair, Samhir squeezes his forehead when he’s stressed. In my book, Susannah plays with the fabric of her dress. Nate swears a lot. LOL.

    We all have funny quirks!

  3. Also, if you’re into musical scores, you should check out the documentary Score — it’s about how music is made for movies. It definitely gets into the emotion of music, but also shows how some excellent arranging can totally change the vibe of a scene.

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