Give Me Some Character

 by Charlotte Bennardo

What does character mean? The term can mean a person in a literary work such as a novel, oral story, film, or play. It can mean the substance of an individual's personality. Or, it can mean a person with a larger-than-life persona. All are well used literary devices. Let's consider the case of Wiley E. Coyote in the Loony Toons/Merrie Melodies Road Runner cartoons. (I'd post an image, but they are copyright protected and it looks bad if I use it without express written permission; but you know who I'm talking about. Here's an actual photo of a coyote. Use your imagination):

Photo by CaptainFrank_:

Wiley is one of the two characters in the cartoon. (We will not include the random truck driver or train conductor who are never seen.) Wiley and the Road Runner drive the story.

Wiley's character, or personality, is comprised of a single-mindedness to trick, catch, and eat the Road Runner. He seemingly never thinks out consequences, such as using Acme rockets to chase the bird but which can't be steered away from the approaching cliff face or other obvious hazards of his machinations. Time and again he suffers from these ill-advised actions, yet never seems to learn, making him appear to be rather dull-witted. It's in his character to forever continue his reckless and doomed behavior because he never dies, runs out of crazy schemes, admits the futility, or gets lucky.

Finally, he personifies the saying, "What a character!" when we mean someone who is eccentric, beyond what we perceive is the norm. He is a comedic yet tragic individual who subtly mocks unattractive human traits like repeating history yet failing to learn from the mistakes, not acknowledging his own shortcomings, or recognizing his arrogance and ego. He is a caricature, or, a "character".

Whether it's a story "character", an individual's "characteristics", or the personification of an embellished "character" figure, only in English can you have one word take on three different meanings. 

No one ever said writing was easy--unless they didn't understand its complexities.

Charlotte writes MG, YA, NA, and adult novels in sci fi, fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal genres. She is the author of the award-winning middle grade Evolution Revolution trilogy, Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons. She co-authored the YA novels Blonde OPS, Sirenz, and Sirenz Back in Fashion. She has two short stories in the Beware the Little White Rabbit (Alice through the Wormhole) and Scare Me to Sleep (Faces in the Wood) anthologies. Having finished her MFA, she's applying what she learned and is working on several children's and adult novels, along with some short stories. She lives in NJ but dreams of a Caribbean beach house. 


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