Character tropes we love and why

Alex: So I’ve said before on this blog that characters are always the most important thing for me when I’m reading a book. I can cut a *lot* of slack for a book that has a shitty plot, if its characters are just absolutely stellar. Do you find yourself getting attached to the same kind of character over and over again? I do.

Veera: Yeah, I definitely need to like at least one character in order to continue reading. I sort of latch myself onto one, and whenever they aren’t on the page I scream about it and go “yes yes yes BUT WHAT ABOUT X!”

Alex: Haha, yeah, me too. If I like all the characters, it’s not so much of a problem, but there have been books where I latched onto one and didn’t care about the others. ELANTRIS by Brandon Sanderson and the first A Song of Ice And Fire book both spring to mind. In both of these books, there were several viewpoint characters, and in each book, I only cared about one of them. That’s not an uncommon experience for me: Generally I’d prefer to get to know just one character really, really intimately, rather than be acquainted with fifteen — I’m kind of an introvert like that.

Veera: Romance novels tend to have certain character types, at least on the surface level (for more see chapter three of my thesis, huehue), and boy, if you put particularly the hero type on the back cover, I will be drawn. I’m really into beta heroes, and especially the ex-military big silent rough type with protective streaks and golden hearts and who are just simply puppy dogs when it comes to the heroine.

Alex: What do you mean by beta heroes?

Veera: *so tempted to dig up research* Betas are the more nurturing heroes. Where alphas are dark and brooding and often autocratic (see Mr Rochester), Betas are the sort of soft and loving and Will Provide For Family. Although they need to have an Alpha core to really work.

Alex: Soooooo… Jean Tannen from the Gentleman Bastard Sequence. Big bruiser with a heart of gold, will fuck you up if you mess with the people he loves.

Veera: I’m not sure I’d call Jean a Beta though. He’s more ambiguous, but that might be because of the genre. With Ezri (his love interest from the second book, for those of you who haven’t read the series), sure, he’s such a softie. Maybe he’s more Beta than Alpha, but the Alpha potential is strong in him. Stronger than in Locke, anyway.

Alex: Jean is definitely one of my character Types. I have three.

  • Type #1 is the snarky lil shit whose mouth is almost faster than his brain. He’s always highly intellectual, but rarely physically gifted, and he is sometimes a huge fucking drama queen. Locke Lamora from Gentleman Bastards, Crowley from GOOD OMENS, Miles from the Vorkosigan books, Moist von Lipwig from GOING POSTAL, Howl from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE. Con artists and tricksters of various flavors, okay? I love ‘em.
  • Type #2 is the character who keeps #1 from accidentally killing himself. #2 is always practical and sensible, emotionally resilient, a BAMF. Jean goes here, as does Sophie from HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, and Bansh from The Eternal Sky Trilogy.
  • Type #3 is the Badass Lady. She is gorgeous, she is powerful, she is in control of herself and her environment. She Gives No Fucks Whatsoever. She thinks the men around her need to Calm the Fuck Down and get out of her way. She can probably (or definitely) take you in a fight. Sabetha Belacoros from GB, War from GOOD OMENS, Adora Belle Dearheart from GOING POSTAL, Morticia Addams, Cordelia Vorkosigan.

Note that #1 is always male, #3 is always female, and #2 can go either way! I also have an occasional thing for Big Damn Heroes with more honor than sense (upright! noble! much concerned with justice and righteousness!), like Kaladin from The Stormlight Archives or Logan from the TV show Dark Angel, but it’s not pervasive enough to warrant its own category.

Veera: I’m trying to think whether I have any clear categorisation like that, and my thoughts keep running in the direction of romance – possibly because it’s pretty much entirely character driven. (Alex says Dark Angel, my first thought is Mary Balogh’s novel DARK ANGEL. Alpha hero, with softer traits.) The heroes tend to stand out, but I do like heroines who have issues with their bodies, or who behave slightly off. For example, Sophy in Heyer’s THE GRAND SOPHY is lovely, the sort of “managing female”. Oh! And I definitely like insufferable characters! Mrs Bennet, Mrs Elton, Isabella Thorpe, and my darling Caroline Bingley come to mind. They’re all by Austen, naturally. So a sort of Other Woman version of #3.

Alex: Do you tend to like characters that you identify with, or ones who are different from you (for example: characters who have a strength you aspire to)?

Veera: How do you ask such good questions? Hmm. A little bit of both, maybe? Characters who I identify with and who overcome their flaws?

Alex: That makes sense. I tend to go one way or another, really. I also really like characters who… hm. How shall I put this… Who are wildly different from me, in ways that I’ll probably never achieve, but who make that difference exciting and thrilling. For example, a book about a genius codebreaker or computer programmer, or about an assassin — but not just that, you know? Not just the job description! When I read a book, I really want to KNOW what it’s like to be that person, I want to know their heart and soul. I’m looking for a kind of… I don’t know how to say it. Not really a “separation of self”, but that was the first phrase that came to mind. I’m a very lazy person, I want to see what it’s like to be an extraordinary person without actually putting much work into it. XD I *love* extraordinary people, both in real life and in fiction, and I love writing that makes ordinary people extraordinary. But writing that makes extraordinary people ordinary? Ugh, god no.

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Readers, tell us your thoughts! Who are your favorite characters? Do you have a type?

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