Character development is all the rage. The reason is that characters are a reader’s pathway to connect to a story. A plot can be exciting but if the characters are boring and static, it can be a huge turnoff. On the contrary, when plots aid character development, something magical can happen. Check out these 3 books that have that je ne sais quoi.
#1: Fever by Mary Beth Keane
I just read and analyzed this book for my MFA coursework this semester. It has been, by far, among my favorite reads this year. Even though I analyzed it for the characters’ addictions, the plot also works to drive character development and change. The book is about Typhoid Mary and takes place around the turn of the twentieth century in New York City. It’s vibrant, human, and masterfully written.
#2: Shogun by James Clavell
This is an old favorite of mine that I read several times over in my high school and college days. If you like underdog stories and fish-out-of-water stories, this is a great book to read. It’s long, so carve out enough time to really dive into its 1,000+ pages. The story takes place in the early 17th century and is told from the point of view of an English pilot stuck in Japan, who meets Toranaga, the fictional version of Tokugawa, the last Shogun.
#3: Emma by Jane Austen
This was once my least favorite book by Austen, though I still loved it because she wrote it. Oddly enough, when I was in middle school, I loved the movie Clueless, which is based on this novel. This novel is about how Emma changes–as well as how Mr. Knightley changes–driven by the plot. The interesting thing about this plot though is that much of it is triggered by Emma herself, even though it doesn’t conform to her intentions.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about Jane Austen, or the meaning and impact of her work, this brief video will entertain and inform. Austen is probably my all-time favorite author so I couldn’t resist sharing this with you.
What is it about an underdog or a character that’s fighting against the odds that inspires us? Is it the fact that we, as readers, can relate to them because we feel like, in a similar situation, we would have the same misfortunes? Or is it their spirit? I think it’s a little bit of both. That’s why this week’s mini-listicle is all about characters who beat the odds.
Aliena of Shiring, Pillars of the Earth
Aliena is one of my favorite characters of all time because she is completely torn down–socially, politically, economically, physically, and emotionally–yet she manages to rise above. She does this by working within–and breaking–the confines of her world. Author Ken Follet did a fantastic job of balancing her missteps and victories in Pillars of the Earth.
Jo March, Little Women
Jo is one of my all-time favorite characters because she is so ahead of her time. Yet, she is frustrated at so many turns by the limitations placed upon women in the mid-nineteenth century. All the same, she finds her way–despite a stubborn streak–to realize her unconventional goals. Author Louisa May Alcott beautifully writes Jo as a relatable character who leaps off the pages of Little Women.
Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
To me, Katniss’s draw isn’t that she can fire a bow with near-perfect accuracy. It’s not her Robin Hood attitude. It’s the way she changes throughout the course of the Hunger Games. It’s the way she adapts in order to preserve both hers and Peeta’s lives. I won’t get into the third book, where she hides in a cupboard for most of the first half, but aside from that, Katniss’s strength comes from the fierce love she bears those select few with whom she’s close. Author Suzanne Collins brought to life one of humanity’s greatest capabilities in Katniss.
Who would you add to this list?
Who are your favorite underdog characters, and why? You might notice that all three of mine are female. That’s not to say male characters cannot fit this role; only that my favorites happen to be female.
This week’s video about literature could be none other than the announcement of the Nobel Prize. Watch below and enjoy!