Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Post - Angela Ackerman - Favorite Characters

I've got a special guest today: Angela Ackerman. You should  know her from the awesome (and award winning) The Bookshelf Muse and as the coauthor of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression. If you follow my blog you know how much I love this thesaurus! It's a fabulous resource for writers in general and this writer in particular. Angela is a Canadian who writes on the darker side of Middle Grade and Young Adult and is is represented by Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency.

Donna, thank you so much for the invitation to visit your blog! I love this topic, because the characters we fall in love with is ultimately why a book becomes a ‘favorite.’ I really struggled with only picking five. But, after much hand-wringing, I narrowed it down, trying not to give too many story spoilers away in the process!

Doug Swieteck - Okay for Now (Gary D. Schmidt) YA Coming of Age
This is one of those books that I wish every person would read--adult and child alike. Doug is an amazing character, living in an abusive and impoverished environment where everyone judges him by his father and brother’s reputations instead of who he could become with some encouragement and support. This is a beautiful story of a boy who chooses to not follow in his thuggish brother’s footsteps, nor adopt the uncaring and entitled, ‘the world is against me so screw them’ attitude his father lays down. Instead Doug discovers who he really is by showing understanding and kindness, finds redemption and friendship, and in turn leads other characters into a redemption of their own, including his own family. Doug is a powerful, true underdog character. He represents the struggle in all of us to move past our baggage, and as a child who suffered terrible bullying, I connected with him on a deep level.

Mat Cauthon - The Wheel of Time Series (Robert Jordan) Adult Fantasy
I love, love, love Matrim Cauthon. He’s a total troublemaker, a rake, and incredibly loyal. Bull-headed, he does what he thinks is right no matter what the danger or cost. There is this constant war in him to put himself first, enjoy the fruits of his labor, but his conscience won’t let him. For me, this creates a delightful, complex and realistic character. Aren’t we all selfish on some level, and we’re torn between doing what’s best for us and what is right? This is Mat’s battle on each page.
And I have to pipe in that I also love Mat's character. It's fun to see his growth over the course of the books, especially when he fights against his destiny. If a scene needs a laugh, you can count on Mat to provide it.

Nya - The Healing Wars Trilogy (Janice Hardy) Middle Grade Fantasy
Nya is an orphan living by the skin of her teeth in a war-torn city. Born with the ability to pull pain out of people, she is viewed as magically useless as her gift doesn’t contain the secondary component needed--the ability to push it into a rare metal that is a great source of power and wealth. It turns out her gift is more complex and deadly however, as she is able to shift pain from person to person, making her attractive to those wanting to use her as a weapon. Nya is loyal and a risk taker, and has a strong sense of right and wrong. She becomes a leader through her actions, all the while trying to come to terms with her own self worth and the destructive power she possesses. A reluctant heroine, she’s feisty and her dealing with moral and ethical dilemmas are realistic.

Kestrel Hath - The Wind on Fire Trilogy (William Nicholson) YA Fantasy
Kess is one of those headstrong characters that makes you cheer. She always does what she thinks is right, and refuses to be dissuaded. She has unusual intuitive qualities for a ten year old (and she ages throughout the series) and places loyalty first, but her determined nature leads her into lots of trouble as she reacts rather than thinks it through. Her world is all about repression and control, so her character traits create explosive conflict as she fights against it. She sees the big picture of her world and is determined to change it for her family and her people, and sacrifices herself for the greater good. This series is one that will stay with you long after you finish it!

Lyra Belacqua, His Dark Materials (Phillip Pullman) YA Fantasy
Lyra is a complete tomboy, wild and untamed by the adults around her. Growing up without parents, she lies to get what she wants and avoids anything that holds her back. This is a delightful contrast to her growing up with scholars in Jordan College, Oxford, the seat of knowledge and science in Lyra’s world. Discovering her mother is a villain propels Lyra into a role of opposing her and all she stands for, and she embarks on a dangerous journey to bring down the organization her mother works for that is kidnapping and torturing children. Lyra’s independent nature and fierce loyalty to her friend Roger make her a heroine to cheer for and empathize with.

And...that’s my five! Reading through my list, I seem to be attracted to characters who are wild cards, underdogs, loyal and fiercely determined to do the right thing. How about you? Who are some of your favorite characters, and what is it about them that wins your heart? Please share some of your favorite books/characters so we all have a great reading list for our summer reading!

Who are some of your favorite characters?

Oh, and on a side note, my awesome friend, Donna Hosie, has an agent. You ought to drop by and congratulate her!


  1. Interesting stuff because I LOVE the His Dark Materials trilogy, and yet I don't like the character of Lyra at all.

    Thanks for the agent shout out by the way! It's been a good day.

  2. Oh, I like Lyra a lot, too! And do these have to be YA characters? 'Cause apart from Harry Potter characters, I can't think of many others. I don't read much YA. Gale from Hunger Games is cool and interesting as well, Cinna too (the latter isn't a teenager, obviously, but he's probably my favourite character in those books). Otherwise, most of my favourite characters come from authors like Austen (Emma Woodhouse, Elinor Dashwood, Mr. Bennett), Dickens (Esther Summerson from Bleak House, the nameless gentleman from Old Curiosity Shop), Mikhail Bulgakov (pretty much all the characters in Master and Margarita are excellent).

  3. Great guest post Angela. I loved reading about your favorite main characters. I really like Nya and Lyra too.

  4. Can't say I knew any of them, but interesting read none the less, favorite characters, hmm Jack Baur count?

  5. Some interesting characters there, none of which I knew.

    For my favorites I would have to go with:
    Scout - To Kill A Mockingbird

    Heathclif - Wuthering Heights (yeah, I like the dark and brooding type)

    Jo - Little Women

    Rhett - Gone With the Wind (dark, but not so brooding)

    Huck - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (just another 'bad boy')

  6. Donna, loooooved Angela here today. She's so awesome. And what a fun line-up of books! I need to start reading again... it's been all summer!

  7. I haven't read any of those and now I feel like I should.

    My favorite characters, hmmm, maybe my all time favorite is Claudine from the Claudine Stories by Colette.

  8. Donna, I think it's great how we can read the same books and enjoy different aspects of it! And congrats on your agent news! WOOT!

    Gigglenoodle (ha, great name!) It can be any character, any genre. These are really only a few of mine--there are so many wonderful stand out characters, and these are some of the best. You've picked some good ones as well. Funny how some of the best characters AREN'T the main character, huh? This is so true with some books.

    Hi Natalie, Yes, Lyra and Nya are great younger heroines!

    Donna, I love that we share a love for Mat. He is such a great complex character. Ah, I heart him so much!!

    Faraway eyes--some great classics here! Thanks for sharing them :)

    Morgan, holy gheeze I'm blushing. And yes, read some books, and enjoy the summer. :) Thanks for stopping in!

    Johanna, I don't think I'm familiar with Claudine, but I'll look into that book. Thanks for the visit!

    And Donna, a big squishy thank you for inviting me here today! :)

  9. Great recommendations! I love Phillip Pullman's trilogy. This is a great reminder to consider carefully the depth I'm giving to my own characters

  10. thanks for the low down on these great characters!
    mat is one of my faves too!

  11. I've only read the Wheel of Time series, but I see several others I would enjoy.

  12. Julie, I agree. As I wrote these profiles for each character I realized how complex and layered they are. I need to strive to achieve this in my own writing. :)

    Tara, Mat is the best isn't he? Hey! I think we have enough fans here to create a fan club!

    Alex, these are all winner books, I promise!

    Thanks everyone for the comments, and sharing your favorites!

  13. His Dark Materials was an interesting trilogy; definitely not the usual type of YA book.

  14. Okay, this is the second or third glowing review for Okay For Now I've read. Considering that it was probably edited by my own editor at Clarion, I should go ahead and read it, huh?

  15. Thanks for these breakdowns on these characters. I believe I have the first book, but the other characters sound equally interesting. I also enjoy wild cards and underdogs.

  16. Great list! Going to add some of these to my list. :)

  17. I just won the "Emotion Thesaurus" on inkpagent and I LOVE it! It is amazingly helpful!

    And it's pathetic but I haven't read any of these books :( Apparently I have some to add to my TBR list!

  18. The Golden Eagle--I agree. You don't see many books willing to take on Religion in such an aggressive way, either.

    Dianne, yes, yes, YES! Read it--you won't be disappointed.

    Medeia, I think the best part of this was discovering the 'theme' running through my favorite characters!

    David, these are all great books. I hope you enjoy them! :)

    Leigh, WOOT! So glad you are getting a lot out of The Emotion Thesaurus! Thanks for letting me know. :)

  19. Great interview, Donna and Angela!

    The Harry Potter series is full of some of my favorite character. The trio of course, Molly Weasley, Dumbledore, Luna Lovegood, etc. I also love Dustfinger from the Inkheart series, Cassandra from I Capture the Castle, Leisel from The Book Thief...I could on and on.

  20. The only one of these books I've read is Philip Pullman's. Lyra was an interesting character but not always believable. I had trouble with aspects of her character in the second book of the trilogy.

    I wonder if it's truly possible to place a complete character onto a page. Is it part of the excitement of reading that we have the freedom to fill in gaps and create our own version of the character in the novel?

  21. Susie, a lot of those are my favorites, too! Love Luna, especially.

    Rosilind, I think this is a part of the excitement. I also think this is why I like books that dont have too much character description... I like to fill in the blanks. Sometimes movies can be a let down in this regard, if the character is too different from what we imagined.


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