I've chatted about how to write Memorable Characters for the past few weeks, so today I want to take the 9 main qualities of a memorable character and apply them to one of my favorite characters. Edward Rochester.
In case you do not know, Edward Rochester in the hero in Charlotte Bronte’s classic, Jane Eyre. Some call him an anti-hero, and we’ll not get into that debate today J However, he is a compelling character who has stood the test of time to fall into the realm of ‘classic’ characters. His transformation in the novel is more like him finding his 'true self' - the man he was before he was betrayed and wounded.
Let’s use the 9 qualities of a memorable character to evaluate him.
C – Complex – Rochester is an incredibly complex character with a past as twisted as a pretzel. Tricked by his father into marrying a stranger for her money, Rochester doesn’t find out until after the wedding that his new wife is mad…(as in insane). After seeing the horrible state of asylums, Rochester decides to bring his wife home to England and hide her in his attic unaware to everyone except her caregiver, Grace Poole, and the wife’s brother, Mason. In the meantime, Rochester lives a life as a bachelor – traveling the world to escape the ‘prison’ his home has become and engaging in all sorts of pleasure which can never feed the passion in his soul for something good and right. Complex? Oh yeah!
H – Heroic/Hopeful/Courageous – Despite appearances, Rochester is all three of these characteristics. He could have ‘disposed’ of his crazy wife, and yet he takes care of her in the best way he knows how. Is he always good? No way! In fact, he tries to deceive poor Jane into marrying him while still being married to Mrs. Crazy (this shows his ‘craving/yearning), but it also shows he’s hopeful that something good can still come into his life even after all of the bad. He shows heroism by taking an abandoned baby into his care, even though he is not fond of children at all. He shows courage (and nobility below) by risking his life to save his crazy wife in the end of the novel.
A – Able/Adept/Resourceful – What can I say? He’s rich! But being resourceful doesn't just mean having resources ;-) (as we’ll learn from Lizzie Bennett) – It means using what you do have very well. Rochester is a smart man and he uses his cunning to expose Mrs. Ingram’s true cold-hearted
personality as well as using her presence to work Jane into enough frenzy to agree to marry him.
R – Raw Wound – the answer is pretty obvious from the first ‘C” – betrayed by his father and forced to live with the betrayal. (another betrayal by another woman happens later in his ) Now he’s cynical, bitter, and guarded against all women. This ‘raw wound’ spurns the story for him – to find healing. Jane helps provide this healing.
A – Affective/Passionate/Purpose – Wowzers! This guy is full of passion and relate-ability. Hurt by his past, he tries to place Band-Aids on his wounds by living a life of ‘pleasure’ and atoning for his sins by taking in his ward. His entire personality breathes of unresolved passions, fueling his changefulness. It’s a powerful thing to read about as well as watch on the screen.
C – Craving/Yearning – Peace. He craves true love and heart-peace. True love is usually the craving that rules romance stories throughout the ages. Peace doesn’t have a single genre.
T- True/Noble/Honorable – Examples were given before regarding this one. Risks his life to save his wife. Takes Adelle, the discarded baby, to raise as his ward. Is a ‘good’ master to his servants. Genuinely cares for Jane’s welfare (though at times quite selfishly)
E- Erratic within some predictability/Unexpected/Variable – Jane refers to him as ‘changeful’. Characters who are always predictable are also forgettable. It’s when these characters occasionally do things we ‘don’t’ expect that makes them more memorable.
R – Redeemable – Here is one of the hallmarks of writing from a Christian worldview. We want to bring the positive change of redemption into the lives of our characters. Rochester goes from being the one in “control” of others to becoming a broken man in need of the love and compassion of his beloved Jane. He’s humbled by his sin in becoming the deceiver and accepts his ‘punishment’ in his wounds after his wife dies. He’s overwhelmed by Jane’s love for him, even though he is wounded and blind. It’s a beautiful ending to a remarkable story.
Place some of your favorite characters (or the ones you are writing) through this list and see if they possess these 9 qualities?
Even compelling bad guys can have most of these characteristics.
Who is one of your favorite characters and how does he/she meet the qualities for being memorable?