Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Falling in Love with the Characters We Write, Read, & Watch

by Sarah Sally Hamer @SarahSallyHamer

How long does it take for you to fall in love with a character in a book? Why do you fall in love? What is it about that character that makes you want to wrap yourself up in their world and go for the ride?

Good characters do that to me. Charlotte in her web, Meg tesseract-ing across the universe, Dorothy following that yellow brick road—all of these and many, many more have enticed me into their magical Hero(ine)'s Journey, allowing me to see myself through their eyes. And, with great joy, I continue to search for other characters to pull me in.

What is it that makes us love them? 

It's different for everybody. We all have traits we admire, and wish to emulate, that we find in the characters in multiple stories. I loved the strength and determination Dr. Richard Kimble exuded in The Fugitive. He KNEW he didn't kill his wife and was willing to risk everything to find the one-armed man who did. Jason Nesmith in Galaxy Quest, the Star Trek knockoff, was a selfish jerk at the beginning, very unlikable. But he finally found his "hero-ness" and came through when he was really needed. I've fallen back in love with Paul Atreides of Dune with the two latest movies, but I loved watching the boy turning into a man years ago. And, yes, I know what happens to him in later books. But I can still be okay with now.

None of these characters had to be perfect. In fact, some of my favorite ones have far to go to become loved since they are downright unpleasant at first. But it's the journey they take that makes them real. In their amazing workbook, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi say, "Creating realistic, never-before-seen characters who take readers on an emotional journey should be the goal of every writer, yet this is not easy feat." They're right. It's not. But if we can find the true depth of a character, we can at least attempt to make them memorable. 

So, how do we make our characters memorable? It takes effort. It takes digging deep. It takes finding the character within our self.

Did you ever notice that some of the characters you love the best are ones who have traits you'd like to have? I was a scared-all-the-time child, so watching characters go from scared to courageous helped me to learn more about myself. "Fixing" people was another trait—me thinking I was responsible for everyone else. But I learned that people have to fix themselves from the books I read: for instance, Dorothy had to discover that she was worthy of trusting herself to click those ruby heels together to get home. Sometimes those lessons are really hard, but the ability to learn from "experts," characters who made it work, really helped.

Not all characters are good role models. But, if you find them loveable at any level, you might find something to aspire to. 

Here are some tips:
  • Watch movies and/or read books. Find the characters that you really resonate with.
  • Look for their traits, both positive and negative. Angie and Becca have written several excellent books on character traits and there are lots of other ones out there. 
  • Watch for the scenes that best express those traits. In a good story, characters SHOW us who they are. 
  • See if you can locate and describe the character arc. Some of them are really simple, with some a lot more complex. 

Then, if you choose, see how that character can teach you something. It may be as easy as fear to courage or as hard as lack of self-worth to being worthy of achieving a goal. It can be Karl (the movie, Up) who goes from bitter and angry at life to where he'll walk away from his original goal to save Russell. Or Sully (in the movie, Monsters, Inc.) who gives up his innocence and desire to become the top scarer in his company to save the most frightening thing in his life, a little human girl. Or how Maximus (Gladiator) gives up his life to save his world. There are more than I could ever name. All of these characters are worth discovering.

And, as I watch these movies or read the books, I find that, ultimately, some lessons are worth learning.

What characters have you fallen in love with? Why?


Sarah (Sally) Hamer, B.S., MLA, is a lover of books, a teacher of writers, and a believer in a good story. Most of all, she is eternally fascinated by people and how they 'tick'. She’s passionate about helping people tell their own stories and has won awards at both local and national levels, including two Golden Heart finals.

A teacher of memoir, beginning and advanced creative fiction writing, and screenwriting at Louisiana State University in Shreveport for over twenty years, she also teaches online for Margie Lawson at WWW.MARGIELAWSON.COM. Sally is a free-lance editor and book coach, with many of her students and clients becoming successful, award-winning authors. 

You can find her at INFO@MINDPOTENTIAL.ORG

From Sally: I wish to express gratitude to the giants upon whose shoulders I stand and who taught me so much about the writing craft. I would list every one, if it were only possible.


  1. I've fallen in love with Amalthea the Last Unicorn. I loved the movie as a kid, but I didn't actually know why, but after reading the book and seeing the scenes play out in my head like a movie, I watched the movie on YouTube and cried when I realized that the character from a book I'm writing and the Last Unicorn have similar purposes and the theme of searching for true identity is similar in both. This book and the character touched me deeply. That's why the music from the movie is burned into my memory.

  2. There you go! So wonderful that you had the Unicorn for a "friend" as a kid and now can recreate the story with your own experiences and perspective.
    Good for you!

  3. I love this. I wish the unicorn could touch me with her horn and give me all the inspiration I need on days when I simply can't write. LOL! God had a purpose in bringing this beloved character back into my life.