Readers, you are getting a special treat this week. Rather than having me ramble aimlessly, you get to have two of us rambling aimlessly! Yup, this is my first ever writing collaboration. The awesome co-author this week is my good friend and fellow writer, R.E. Myles. She suggested exploring why we are drawn to certain characters and types of characters in books and video games. We decided that the Q&A format with seven questions would be the best way to answer this so you can get a clear idea of what (and who) we like in stories. For the record, both Myles and I read a lot of fantasy, and when we say “video games,” we’re primarily referring to third person roleplaying games. With such similar tastes, there is some overlap in our answers. We apologize to the authors in advance for any mispronunciations. Enjoy!
Question #1: Does the medium of the story affect what characters you are drawn to? In other words, do you find yourself gravitating towards one type of character in a videogame but a different one (or even the opposite) in a book?
Kat (KVC): The medium does influence me, at least to some extent. In a book, you’re immersed in the story as an observer, and yet you can get inside the character’s headspace to see what they are really thinking and feeling. Bad things may happen in a book, but I have no control over them. As a result, I tend to like a wider range of character types in books, from the sweet and naive to the dark and dangerous. In a videogame, you are (at least partially) in control of the events and interactions around you. Well-done roleplaying videogame characters are more like people in real life; they don’t share everything, especially not right off the bat. It takes time to get to know them and draw out their pasts and inner natures. In a videogame, I tend to take a saintly route and really latch on to honorable, dependable characters. I have less tolerance for what villains (and sometimes anti-heroes) do because I can see the effects of their actions (and mine) play out right in front of me. Overall, in both mediums, I gravitate towards characters with integrity, who stick to their guns without being zealots, who show compassion, intelligence, and humor. But I’m also drawn to broken characters, the ones with dark pasts they are trying to hide or escape… or even embrace. Of course, such characters need redeeming qualities; I don’t care for overly broody or whiny characters.
R.E. Myles (REM): I agree with Kat to a degree. The medium doesn’t always affect the characters I’m drawn to. In a written story, I am still drawn to characters who might not always be the best people. Too much goody-good attitude and I want to smack them, but too much bitchy-bitch, I want to deck them too. I agree with Kat that in stories we are observers looking down on someone else’s story where in video games we are playing, immersed in a story, world, and characters. In books and stories I like the usual good guys, but find myself drawn to the villains and anti-heroes with redeemable qualities. I love a good tragic yet bittersweet story. In video games, I can switch up playing between good and bad guys; I find myself being good most of the time. It is mostly about how epic the story and characters are; that’s the major drawing factors for me. I like honorable characters too. In books and games, I like honorable and down-to-earth, believable characters.
Question #2: Do you like characters that you’re suppose to hate? Do you like a well-written villain or antagonist and what makes them hate-able but likeable in the same breath?
REM: I loooove a well-written villain. I hate villains and antagonists that are evil to just be evil… when it doesn’t make sense for the story. When writers for both, stories and games, write believable villains and antagonists, I’m more drawn into the plot and characters. I care more. I might be rooting for the good guys, but secretly I might still be rooting for the villain and antagonist to see the light. It all comes down to how well written a character is for me. I can think of a few villains that I like/hate. If I was to go from books, it depends on the story/plot some plots just call for the villains to be evil just to be evil. I’m thinking The Lord of the Rings with Sauron. As readers, we don’t rightfully know why Sauron is evil; he just is. And throughout all the books I’m okay with that, because throughout the entire three books we experience the evils that Sauron’s committed. It doesn’t matter what his backstory is… he is evil and must be stopped. I’m okay with this because the story wasn’t about Sauron. It was about the small person making a big difference in the face of seemingly unstoppable, powerful foe. I loved hating Sauron.
Another example of this evil for the sake of being evil is with Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara. A similar tale to The Lord of the Rings— heroics of epic portions and the most unlikely person being the hero of the story. Brona is the villain of the story. Readers don’t see Brona until the very end but we experience his acts of evil throughout the entire story and by the end, readers are fully rooting for the unlikely hero to defeat the Dark Druid. Villains like that are fine as long as they contribute to the story and help move things along. They don’t necessarily need a backstory for why they are the way they are. Readers don’t care: evil is evil.
Now, some stories need a backstory to their villains because the villains and antagonists play a prominent role in the story, and not just a background character who readers see only committing acts of evil. I was thinking of Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. The villain is without a doubt evil, but since he plays a forward role in the story, readers are curious about why he is the way he is. Same could be said of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. Her villain has a history, a background, but he is evil and readers enjoy the fact he is evil. You love to hate him.
KVC: I don’t think I’ve ever liked a character I was supposed to hate. I have heard people talk about how much they love Voldemort and other rather despicable characters. I know they mean that they love to hate him, but I’m a little more black-and-white with my thinking. Sometimes, I will root for an antagonist or villain to see the light, but like Myles said, they need to have good reasons and it has to be well-written. They can’t be too flat or cartoony, otherwise the sense of danger and drama gets lost. (The only exceptions for me are some classic fantasy or science fiction, and the old pulp fiction serials like Barsoom, Gor, and Tarzan. The latter are shallow, often sexist power fantasies, but that can be fun to read occasionally.) I do like some shades of grey in villains, and explanations for their actions, but I don’t want things to be too grey. (Yes, Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you.) I guess I can… appreciate a well-written villain, but I generally enjoy kicking their ass more. If a villain or antagonist does redeem themselves a little, or even completely, by the end of a story or game, I may hate them a little less on the second read-through.
Question #3: Are there characters that you think should be more prominent? Or would like to know more about?
REM: Maybe this question came about as I played Dragon Age: Inquisition, which is a Bioware game. But I have read books where I wanted to know more about the support characters. In fact, R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt series, Drizzt started out as a background character. Fans of the series wanted to know more about the lone drow elf who happened upon this group of adventurers. I read Drizzt’s backstory first, then I read the rest of the series. And yes, I would have loved to know more about Drizzt if I’d read The Icewind Dale Trilogy first. One of the most recent book series I have read had a side character I wanted to know more about. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo and her character, Sturmhond. First of all, loved this character; he was fun, clever, and witty. He might have been the reason I really continued reading the series. I would love to see this character have a book or two of his own. In video games, I love getting to know my companions and learning their stories. I’ve always been drawn to characters who are supporting, yet mysterious, and sometimes background characters. I want to know more about them and who they are. What are they doing with the party? How did they get there?
KVC: I love RPGs where each character in your party gets a chance to shine. So often they become background decoration or cannon fodder, or I latch onto a combination that works and don’t explore the others. Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, and Jade Empire are great examples of video games that allow for that kind of exploration and backstory. (Not surprisingly, they all come from Bioware.) For example, I’ve replayed the first Knights of the Old Republic game several times, and, depending on which character is in your party, you may have different encounters. None of those really impact the main storyline, but they often spawn side-quests and give you a chance to learn more about the characters. Sometimes side characters can spawn their own games, although that doesn’t seem to happen as much. The best example I can think of is Vincent Valentine from Final Fantasy VII, who got his own game: Dirge of Cerberus.
In books it can be a little harder to decide who I would like to know more about; it really depends on the story. (Myles, you stole Drizzt! Now I have to find another example.) Hmmm… A while back, I read The Looking Glass Wars, and, I liked them well enough, most of the characters didn’t leave much of an impression on me. The only one that made me want to see more was Hatter Madigan, probably because we don’t know much about him or how he became a Hatter. That mystery just begs for exploration, which was done in the Hatter M graphic novels. So in short, I love it when characters I like who don’t have much “screen time” get their own books or games.
Question #4: In regards to romance options in games and stories, what makes you think certain options are better for certain characters than others?
REM: I am going to answer this question in two parts. One for video games and the other for stories.
When playing video games, I am drawn to characters that are sweet, yet realistic and honorable. I’ve found myself drawn to characters who are witty and intelligent with interesting character backgrounds. Being a part of two fandoms (mostly Mass Effect and Dragon Age), I have found that the debate that often comes up is which characters are the best romance options. Or do players have a preferable type of romance? For me it depends upon the game and the character. I’m drawn to compelling story that revolves around the romance option. I want sweet, witty, deep, heartfelt romance. I don’t think there is a set romance that is any better than any other. A while back when I was playing Mass Effect 3, my husband was watching me play through the game. He usually plays evil/renegade like characters, so his game plays are different than mine. And he usually watches me because I usually play the good/paragon characters. He was interested in the fact that I had romanced Kaidan over Garrus. He had figured that Garrus was more my type of character: fun, witty, action over words and loyal. Normally, I admitted, he would have appealed to me, but there was something about Kaidan’s character that drew me in. He was normal, to some people even boring. But I liked that he was an established character. He didn’t need to be– to grow or to be fixed. I found that to be refreshing. Looking back over most of the characters I like the most, especially romanceable characters, my trend is to the more established characters.
I like drama and angst, but there is something infinitely more appealing to me as a player when I have a steady character that doesn’t always need fixing. Garrus wasn’t like that in Mass Effect 3, but to start his romance in 2 he did have some issues worked out. Even in Mass Effect 1 he had to sort out his problems. Kaidan didn’t need that. I like confidence in characters just like I like confidence in real people. Not cockiness or over-confidence, just knowing enough about yourself to admit when you’re wrong. Yeah, Kaidan had problems with Shepard in Mass Effect 2, but he does admit later on that he wasn’t completely right at the time. I was probably one of the few people in the fandom that supported Kaidan’s decision on Horizon in Mass Effect 2. In fact I love how the writers did that scene. The only thing I wish is that it hadn’t been so cookie cutter between him and Ashley, but in truth both would have reacted the way they did. I don’t want to get too spoilery for those who haven’t played the game, but that scene made me like the character even more.
I could talk about this all day, and, unfortunately, most of the games I play, that have romance in them, are Bioware games. There are a few others, but the stories just aren’t there. The Witcher series has interesting romance features in both 1 and 2, and the third game promises to deliver, but the romance is treated simply as sex. There is not really an emotional attachment to the characters, in regards to romance. But then, in the Witcher books sex for both, men and women, is used a tool to gain power.
So, going into stories and books, I’m going to look at this more as a writer, and I have found that when writing romance into my stories I start out with characters who I believe should be together. But I’ve found that they don’t always stay together. Depending on how one character develops and how the plot proceeds, just like in real life people can drift apart. So to do the characters. In two stories I have written, this is the case. I started out writing a semi-romantic fantasy YA story. I was happy because I loved the two main characters, who I believed were destined to be together by the end. But, by the end of the story, they aren’t. Mostly it was due to the way the characters developed, and what each wanted by the end. They still cared for each other, but what they wanted out of life was not same. I know it is different than most stories but it is realistic; not all love ends the same happy way. I love exploring all possible angles of pairings. I believe as Kat does that there should be more representation of all sexualities in books. I notice that it is slowly getting there, but it will be a while yet. I believe characters should be drawn to each other, but “love at first sight” shouldn’t be the normal. I believe in attraction at first sight, but destined soulmates, “I must be with this person because I love them without knowing them”? No, just no. Attraction, yes. But love is something requiring months, even years, of getting to know another human being. I love books that have that kind of romance going on: slow but intense.
KVC: In video games, since I’m in control of the character, I’m often influenced by what I personally find attractive, which dovetails a lot with what Myles said above. Humor, intelligence, compassion, responsibility, honor… The characters who stick by me in-game become appealing as a romantic option. Soldiers and scoundrels-with-hearts-of-gold tend to be the ones that appeal to me. I also like it when games have the option for romantic relationships other than heterosexual, although I usually don’t explore those options myself. In both mediums, I’m intrigued by characters with dark, shattered, or mysterious pasts and will try to find out more about their history. If I find it compelling, I may be drawn to them, but only if they have redeeming qualities to soften the rougher edges. They have to be a good person underneath; you can’t change someone who isn’t willing to change themselves.
In books specifically, I like it when characters are well-matched. I will read and enjoy books of the traditionally “romantic” vein even when there are elements that I wouldn’t like in real life (like being fought over or kidnapped or in the reverse harem favored by a lot of shojo manga). The drama can be engaging, but I prefer it when both parties are well-fleshed out, independent people who choose who they want to be with, and are capable of living their lives without the other if needed. And again, books need to expand beyond the hetero-normative romantic standards. Also, instant interest or attraction between characters is fine, but instant “true love” I find unbelievable (outside of a traditional fairytale) and that can turn me off to an entire book or series. For example, I started reading The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglas several years ago. I was enjoying it… up until the point when the heroine Faraday marries Borneheld, a decent man she was in love with. But, at the wedding, she meets his half-brother, Axis, and BOOM! Instant true love that makes her pine for this “soulmate” despite the fact that she hasn’t really exchanged any conversation with him and her husband isn’t a bad person. Maybe if Axis and Faraday had met later several years later I could understand their attraction a little better, but the timing was so poor that I threw away the book in disgust and never picked the series up since.
Question #5: Do you prefer/connect best with characters who embody traits or ideals you aspire to, characters who are more like you, or do you enjoy exploring the darker side of human nature? (For example, in roleplaying video games, some people like being the best they can be, others try to keep choices closer to what they would do in real life, and some enjoy “being bad” or just messing around with the world.)
KVC: I often struggle between what is realistic and what is the ideal. In a videogame, I actually have the option to be a really good person who makes a difference, something that isn’t always possible or obvious in real life. While several of my friends often play different kinds of characters, exploring lots of choice options or even playing as if they were a character from their own creative work, I generally end up playing a character to the highest level of good that I can. I usually make choices that are generous and improve the lives of the NPCs. With upgrades and money so easy to acquire, I can afford to be generous. No matter how realistic a videogame is in terms of choice, there are just some things that can’t translate, otherwise some of the fun of the game will be lost. (I’ve never been a fan of “grinding” or “farming” games like Runescape. Too much like real work!) So, I guess the short answer is that I prefer, connect with, and/or play as characters who possess traits that I aspire to in both video games and books. However, like Myles said, if they are too good or too evil without having to struggle with choices and consequences, then they become uninteresting. (Still, I also wish I could do half of the things game characters can. Run for hours with fifteen sets of armor in my pack only to fight off a marauding army? No problem!)
REM: This is a tough one for me. There are parts of me that enjoy playing the realistic choices, the ‘good’ choices, and the ‘bad’ choices. Most of my characters are good characters. Sometimes I play realistic characters, and I do explore the dark side. It is rare for me to play darker characters. In stories, I like the realistic characters more. They are more believable to me and I connect better. Also, as Kat said earlier, I’m an observer in stories. I want stories to be a little unpredictable. In the games I play, my choices shape the world, so I don’t mind playing good or honorable characters to get a better world setting. In stories, it becomes too predictable for me if the character is too good, then their choices are always going to be the good choices. Tempting them with evil choices is impossible because they will never be swayed from their good side. Realistic characters are more compelling for me because I don’t know what they will decide to do.
Question #6: What tropes, stereotypes, or plot devices do authors employ that make you lose interest in or sympathy for a character?
KVC: Short answer: instant, searing romantic attraction. Like, “I just met you 2 seconds ago; let’s have sex!” Long answer: A lot of things, often relating to romantic relationships. I get irritated when an author continuously repeats how awesome, sexy, attractive, or evil a character is. It’s baffling to me when authors put in bad boys and bad girls who act like douches and never have or show a better side, or a reason for why they act that way… but we’re supposed to swoon over them anyway. A dangerous trope that both angers and frightens me is when a “romantic” interest is obviously cruel, patronizing, or manipulative, and yet, “He’s sooooo hot!” (‘Cause usually it’s the girl swooning over the guy. Or two guys.)
Huge recent offender: the book Splintered, one of those Alice in Wonderland remixes. I love remixes of old or traditional stories to see where they go or how they interpret it. There are a lot of cool ideas and imagery in Splintered. The book even starts out interesting. But the second the love triangle is introduced, I lost interest. Not only is fiction (especially teen fiction) over-saturated with love triangles of two guys fighting over a girl (and she just can’t possibly choose which one she wants to be with!), but the guys, in this case, aren’t even worth fighting over! The only thing they have going for them is good looks. The human boy, Jeb, is patronizing and condescending. He’s overprotective because he can’t seem to understand that Alyssa is a human who has intelligence and a will of her own. But Morpheus, the alternative love interest from Wonderland, isn’t any better. Morpheus does think Alyssa can do things on her own, but he also manipulates her horribly, often putting her in serious danger, just to further his own agenda. And every other sentence Alyssa’s talking about how “sexy” and “alluring” they are. Drove me up the wall!
Video games don’t irritate me as much… There are certain things they have to do that are mildly irritating. Like some leveling-up nonsense. (Because it’s a game. You kind of have to do that.) It can be either funny or frustrating to be the only character capable of saving the world. However, a big pet peeve that I do have is… I don’t like having male be the default for the main character. I like having the option to be male or female.
REM: Ditto Kat. Instant true love at first sight drives me nuts. Also repetitive dumbness and naive and Mary-Sue like characters. Characters that are just too good or too bad for everyone around them. I don’t usually like love triangles either because it’s all about the girl having to choose. It’s never about the guys. And most of the time the better choice for the girl isn’t the one she ends up with! Or, as Kat mentioned, the guys aren’t worth it! I don’t mind love triangles if they are well written. I’ve read two book series where the love triangles were amazing and heartfelt. One was in Melissa Meyers’ Wicked Lovely series (in particular the second book, Ink Exchange, and the last book, Darkest Mercy) and the other was Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices series. Both are different takes on the love triangle. I haven’t read the Splintered series but I do have the first two books but another love triangle that isn’t done well or is cliched will drive me up the wall too. I understand that teenagers don’t know what they want out of life, but they are just as loyal and picky as some grown adults I know. I don’t know why it always has to be about the triangle.
Question #7: Who are some of your favorite characters from books and video games? List 5 to 10 characters with short explanations as to why you might find yourself drawn to those particular characters or why they are on your list of favorites.
REM: This isn’t as easy as it looks. I’m going to try for ten, but that might be too many and not enough. (In no particular order of importance.) Plus I know Kat will hit a few of my other favorites and honorable mentions, Carth and Achmed being two of them. I tried really hard to get five girls and five boys into the mix, but I did notice a lot of males were popping up on my radar of favorite characters. Just a thought: but maybe because we are just starting to see an influx of decent female characters in writing? Oh, Kat, I completely agree with your assessment of Achmed! I love that character! But since you introduced me to the series, you get claims.
All right, so, let’s break this down. And as I said earlier, no order of importance:
- Alistair Theirin (Dragon Age: Origins, Xbox 360 & PC) Why? Because he’s naive, sweet and honorable, always wanting to do what he feels is right. Funny and cheeky, he doesn’t back down from a fight and will defend his beliefs and viewpoints. One of the biggest reasons I really liked this character was he was written with the idea of players being able to help him develop. Players can choose to “harden” Alistair. This means he is given the shove that he needs in order to grow and mature and to take responsibility for what he needs to do. Players can also choose not to “harden” Alistair, and his personality pretty will much remain the same. You know, sweet, naive, and not really wanting to take responsibility. Either way I love Alistair. He quickly rose to be one of my favorite video game characters. I’m not going to do the voice, but I do have a few quotes here that I think helps establishes the character even moreso. He has two that I particularly like: “Swooping is bad,” and, “That’s what I’m here for. To deliver unpleasant news and witty one-liners.”
- Aveline Vallen (Dragon Age II, Xbox 360) What do I like about Aveline? She’s a kickass girl with a nice twist. Honorable, brave and honest she’s a knight-like character with a keen edge. I liked her because she showed that even the most seemingly hard-edged people can have a soft side. Women don’t have to shed their femininity to be warriors. “Protect what matters with everything you have, or you’ll have nothing, and deserve it.”
- Dorian Pavus (Dragon Age: Inquisition, Xbox 360) Dorian snuck up on me as a favorite character. He is witty and charming, smart and cocky, with more than enough powerful magic at his disposal. At first I wasn’t certain I liked him, but then his banter in party is priceless, and his overall character is well-written and performed beautifully by his voice actor. I think the biggest thing about this character that drove him into my favorites list was his backstory. Heartbreaking and realistic. Dorian is homosexual and his family doesn’t approve of his life “choices.” His sexuality is a part of him but it doesn’t define him. I enjoyed that aspect to the character. Just because he liked men didn’t make him the person he was; his choices did that. He just preferred the company of men. “I’m here to set things right. Also? To look dashing. That part’s less difficult.”
- Solas (Dragon Age: Inquisition, Xbox 360) Solas also snuck up on me, just like Dorian. I must admit, I went into Dragon Age: Inquisition nervously. I didn’t like any of the character trailers I had seen, and I was afraid the new software Bioware was using for game design would make it too open world and focus on that than the actual characters and stories. So, I kept my distance and waited patiently for the game to be released. With nerves tingling, I played the game and fell in love with the world and characters all over again. But mostly… I fell for Solas. He isn’t like Alistar or Kaidan for me (which, for pixeled men, aren’t too bad looking). He’s different. Mysterious, proud, intelligent, wise, and dry -humored. Much like Kaidan, he is an established character. There is an air of confidence and loneliness to Solas which makes me want to hug him. Solas, much like Dorian is, very well written and voice acted. There’s an emotional connection to the character, even if you don’t like the character. You still are made to have that emotion about him. “I have seen things in my journeys that most can only dream of. Literally.”
- Kaidan Alenko (Mass Effect Trilogy PC & Xbox 360) Holy wow! Probably surprised; it’s not a Dragon Age character! What’s going wrong with me? No, if I had to decide, Kaidan is my favorite videogame character, hands down. I wrote about Kaidan up above, but I feel that I need to explain why he is my favorite character. He’s truthful, honorable, sweet, intelligent and brave. He’s an established character who doesn’t need fixing, as I’ve mentioned before. At one point in Mass Effect 1, Shepard (who I’ve also mentioned before, but just in case you’re not aware, is the player character) can ask if she needs to fix him after learning his backstory. He replies that he’s 32 and doesn’t need it. One of the other things I like about Kaidan is that he has his own life that doesn’t revolve around the player character. While Kaidan is loyal, he isn’t loyal to a fault. He questions commands and decisions that have been made. In an epic game like Mass Effect, I enjoyed having a nice, relatively normal character that didn’t need or want anything from my character. “We finally get out here, and the final frontier was already settled. And the residents don’t even seem impressed by the view. Or the dangers.”
So, moving from video games into books. I once again have five characters that I tried to pick. This is, as I said earlier, a lot harder than it looks.
- Celaena/Aelin (Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas) A kickass female character who is growing, learning, and just overall amazing. She isn’t too good and she isn’t too bad, but a mix of both. I like that the character isn’t afraid of being a girl and having fun. Her occupation? Assassin. “My name is Celaena Sardothien. But it makes no difference if my name’s Celaena or Lillian or Bitch, because I’d still beat you, no matter what you call me.”
- Max (Maximum Ride Series by James Patterson) Another kickass female character, in which family is everything. I like Max; she’s a tomboy and not quite like Celaena with the comfort level of being a girl. She rather punch first ask questions later, but much like Celaena she learns to grow and develop. She still doesn’t like wearing dresses, but that’s okay. Oh, and did I mention she has wings! “I shot him the bird. (Get it? I shot him the—never mind.)” “Iggy. This is not a democracy,” I said,(…)”It’s a Maxocracy.”
- Yennefer (The Witcher Series by Andrzej Sapkowski) I’m not usually a fan of bitchy female characters, but Yennefer wormed her way into my heart. She’s a confident and powerful woman with just the right amount of bitch in her that makes her an amazing female character. She’s more no-nonsense than full-fledge bitch, possibly because she has amazing, caring heart underneath the cold facade. “Don’t be embarrassed,’ she said, throwing an armful of clothing on the hook. ‘I don’t faint at the sight of a naked man. Triss Merigold, a friend, says, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”
- Wren Elessedil (The Heritage of Shannara Series by Terry Brooks) Wren is a survivor and queen. She’s a people’s queen, willing to do what is necessary in order to make certain her people are safe. She isn’t stuck- up or prissy; she is cool and calm. Collected and rational. She can be feminine and tomboyish in the same breath, and she doesn’t let others push her around. “Wren Elessedil. You are as good as your word, girl! Come back out of death to find me, come back to spit in my face, to prove you could do it after all! Shades, you must be tough as nails!”
- Magnus Bane (The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare) Magnus is just fun and witty. Immortal and wise, with a twisted sense of humor. He is bisexual. He wants the best of everything. Powerful, but kind, even if he complains the entire time he is helping out. He would do anything for those that he loves and cares about. Very sarcastic and flashy, he has some of the best one-liners in all of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series. “You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.”
KVC: Oh man, favorite characters in books and video games? Great question, but wow… There are so many! Celaena/Aelin of the Throne of Glass series is awesome. Thanks for remembering her! Like Myles, I’m honestly a little surprised how many male characters popped to the top of my list of favorites. I wasn’t expecting that. In video games, I tend to be the female character surrounded by males, at least if I get the option to pick my gender. (Maybe that, or the fact that I tend to develop crushes on fictional characters has something to do with it?) Okay, here goes, in no particular order:
- Carth Onasi (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Xbox) Why? Because he’s sweet and honorable while being flirtatious and funny when my player character teased him. At first he really didn’t know what to do with me, but over time showed how loyal and supportive he could be without that loyalty being blind.
- Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect, Xbox 360) Why? He has issues he needs to work through and he really tries. I’ve only played the first Mass Effect game, but I really enjoyed being around him. He’s serious, but also recognizes levity. He’d be a good drinking buddy. Yet he isn’t afraid to do something difficult if it’s the right choice. His thinking is too black-and-white at first, but he’s receptive to Shepard’s more moderate ideas.
- Kang the Mad (Jade Empire, Xbox) Why? Because… he’s Kang the Mad. He’s funny and fascinating and we really don’t learn much about him during the game, but he’s certainly the most colorful of the companions you can acquire. There are a few hints that he might be a fallen, amnesiatic god, but as far as I can remember, it’s never confirmed in-game.
- Vincent Valentine (Final Fantasy VII & Dirge of Cerberus, PlayStation 2) Why? Okay, I wrote an entire fanfic about this guy, so… yeah. Kind of one of my favorites. Not only is his character design awesome and Steve Blum’s voice to die for, Vincent also has that dark, edgy past that just draws me in. He’s a character who appears cold and aloof on the outside, but really does care and tries to help his friends, even if he doesn’t say it in so many words. Some people might find him too emo, but his outlook and brooding personality isn’t without purpose or reason, and he possesses other qualities to balance that out, keeping him from going into “whiny” territory.
- Waka (Okami, PlayStation 2) Why? He’s irritating, ridiculously strong when you first meet him, and he just loves messing with you. It’s clear that he knows more than he’s saying and my emotions throughout the game ran the gamut from outrage… to pity. The more I learned about him, the more I felt sympathy for his position. There’s a special place in Sei-an City that was the biggest turning point in my perception of him. Definitely one of my favorites.
It was really hard trying to narrow this down, so really this is just a small sampling of characters I love. (Huh. And again, almost all of the ones that occurred to me first are male. Interesting.) It’s not that I don’t like or don’t read books with awesome female characters, but they just didn’t come to mind instantly like these guys did.
- Achmed the Snake (Symphony of Ages Series by Elizabeth Haydon) Why? Because he’s a sardonic badass, that’s why. Achmed’s been on the short end of the stick pretty much his entire life, although you only get tantalizing flashes of his past throughout the series. It’s made him bitter in some ways, but it’s also honed him into an instrument of opportunity and destruction. He’s willing to take huge risks that sane people usually wouldn’t touch… and he pulls it off. Physically and emotionally he’s fascinating, and while he can be a cold-hearted bastard towards his enemies, he’s very loyal to the two people he trusts and loves. And I just melt when that love shows through.
- Harry Dresden (The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher) Why? Because Harry Dresden is the wise-cracking, spell-slinging character I wish I could be. (I always picture him looking like a young Clint Eastwood.) He always seems to get into trouble over his head, but does his best to do the right thing and keep others safe, despite the odds almost always being stacked against him. I admire his persistence and continued desire to help others, even as things get increasingly dark and dangerous. And his sense of humor is excellent, bar none.
- Kyrtian V’dyll Lord Prastaran (Elvenborn by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey) Why? Because Kyrtian is an anomaly. In a world where sadistic elven overlords rule and humans are slaves (except the wizard half-breeds who combine human and elvish magic), Kyrtian and his family is the exception. Their House treats humans with respect, as people; they are employees and wards, not slaves. Kyrtian is naive enough (at first) to be endearing, but clever enough to play the game of politics when necessary to protect his charges. In addition, he’s willing to get his hands dirty and take responsibility for his choices. Plus, he is a brilliant military strategist, which is a trait I can appreciate.
- Jenny Waynest (Winterlands Quartet by Barbara Hambly) Why? Because there aren’t many menopausal witches in fantasy. She breaks the mold in so many ways. Most of the time, fantasy heroes and heroines are young and powerful in one way or another. But Jenny is a witch in her mid- to late-40s who only possesses “small magics,” and she does feel some very human jealousy of those with more power. She has to constantly balance between her magic and her family. And she must use her wits and stubbornness to defeat opponents with more magic. She’s very, very human, and probably an introvert as well, adding a welcome variety to the fantasy palette.
- Naitachal the Dark Elf (Castle of Deception by Mercedes Lackey and Josepha Sherman) Why? I still haven’t figured out why I like this book so much, but Naitachal is a big part of it. Similar to Drizzt Do’Urden, Naitachal is different from other Dark Elves and yearns to leave behind their legacy of necromancy to follow his love of music. He’s witty and wry, always hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. He’s an outcast from his homeland who has yet to be accepted by the rest of the world, just the kind of complex, layered character I like to read. (And there are three books after Castle of Deception that feature Naitachal. Yay!)
We hope that you enjoyed this week’s entry! Thank you, R.E. Myles, for suggesting the topic and for participating in this Q&A. It was a lot of fun!
Readers, who are your favorite characters and character traits, and why? We look forward to hearing from you!
LIST OF WORKS REFERENCED IN THIS ENTRY:
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Sword of Shannara and The Heritage of Shannara series by Terry Brooks
The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
The Barsoom series and Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Gor series by John Norman
The Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The Legend of Drizzt series (including The Dark Elf prequel trilogy and The Icewind Dale Trilogy) by R.A. Salvatore
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Hatter M graphic novels by Frank Beddor and Sami Makkonen
The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski
The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglas
Splintered by A.G. Howard
Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Meyers
Maximum Ride by James Patterson
The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon
The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher
Elvenborn by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey
The Winterlands Quartet by Barbara Hambly
Castle of Deception (from The Bard’s Tale series) by Mercedes Lackey and Josepha Sherman
Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age II
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Mass Effect Trilogy
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt