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Posts tagged ‘Dexter’

Building Attractive Characters

by Chris McMahon

It’s strange which characters end up snaring you as a reader. I often wonder why some of the characters I have loved have appealed to me so much. I’m a sucker for the underdog, it hooks me in every time and often drives my own fiction, but lets put that aside for the moment.

It’s no secret I’m a die-hard David Gemmell fan. I think the man was a genius. OK, so he wrote pretty much the same thing every time, but he did it extremely well. His action was great, and good action is always driven by character. He was a writer who knew how to draw a character and how to get out of the reader’s way. His prose is deceptively simple and immediate.

The classic David Gemmell hero is tough and uncompromising. He would think nothing of stepping into the fray and knocking heads if it was the right thing to do and would not give a moment’s thought to the consequences or the bruises and blood – or deaths – that might result. An almost total lack of introspection, except of course for being tortured by guilt over something in their past, which drives them to merciless self-sacrifice.

Reflecting about that sort of character, I would have to admit he (or she – Sigorni in the Hawk Queen books – Gemmell didn’t discriminate) are pretty much poles apart from me. Perhaps we might share a similar sense of right and wrong, but where I would sit wondering whether I should say something the Gemmell hero has already leapt in and moved on. Would I love to be able to act like that and not be tortured by hours of introspective replay? I sure would.

One other character that fascinates me is Dexter from the TV series. Again, here is someone who has a total lack of worry about the consequences; except perhaps only as they might impact on his eventual freedom and lifestyle, but otherwise he feels no remorse or hesitation over how his actions will affect others. If not for his code, he would be an indiscriminate killer. There seems to be no barriers to action in Dexter’s world. I think that is another thing I feel so attracted to. At various times I might feel passionately driven to certain things – at others I will struggle against internal demons or even conflicting passions to get into forward motion. None of this for Dexter. No amount of action or work seems a barrier to him – there are no emotional blocks in the way. There must have been a thousand times I wished I could have waved a magic wand and turned myself into some sort of robot that just got the job done – or at least pop some sort of pill that switched off my emotion. I think this underlies my attraction to characters like Spock.

So do opposites attract? Is it wish-fulfillment that drives our connection to characters? Wanting to live their lives? Or is this connection different for everyone?