Creating Larger-Than-Life Characters

Creating Larger-Than-Life Characters


Writers Write is your one-stop resource for writers. In this post, we discuss improving your writing by creating larger-than-life characters.

When you write fiction, you start with character, the heartbeat of the novel. Characters are interesting people in terrible difficulties.

Readers read novels for story but also for intimacy – they want to move into a character’s life, live inside his or her thoughts and emotions, take on his or her goals and problems.

Creating Larger-Than-Life Characters

Fictional characters must be interesting and capable of pursuing a story goal. They should be flawed and vulnerable.

If we want readers to remember them, they must also be larger-than-life. Merriam-Webster defines larger-than-life as ‘the sort legends are made of’.

James N. Frey deals with larger-than-life characters in his non-fiction books. Frey, the author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel and How to Write a Damn Good Novel II, coined the term ‘homo fictus’ to depict the differences between real people and larger-than-life fictional people.

He writes: "Readers demand that homo fictus be more handsome or ugly, ruthless or noble, vengeful or forgiving, brave or cowardly, and so on, than real people are. Homo fictus has hotter passions and colder anger; he travels more, fights more, loves more, changes more, and has more sex. Lots more sex. Homo fictus has more of everything. Even if he is plain, dull and boring, he’ll be more extraordinary in his plainness, dullness and boringness than his real-life counterparts."

Our favourite, unforgettable fictional characters loom large in our imagination. All these characters have stature, presence, flair. Many have become archetypes. All of them are memorable.

Creating Larger-Than-Life Characters

Examples of larger-than-life characters:

  1. Cruella de Vil in One Hundred and One Dalmatians
  2. Harry Potter in the novels by J. K. Rowling
  3. Spud Milton in the Spud series of novels by John van de Ruit
  4. Ebenezer Scrooge is the protagonist in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
  5. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of The Rings
  6. Holden Caufield is the protagonist in J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
  7. Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird
  8. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Don Corleone from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather
  10. Lolita from the novel Lolita written by Vladimir Nabokov
  11. Nancy Drew
  12. Jay Gatsby is the title character of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby
  13. Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind
  14. Stephanie Plum is the bounty hunter protagonist in a series of novels by Janet Evanovich.
  15. Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding
  16. Harry Bosch is the detective created by Michael Connelly
  17. John Rebus from the Inspector Rebus series of detective novels by Ian Rankin
  18. Wednesday Addams from The Addams Family
  19. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  20. Sherlock Holmes, the famous English detective created by Arthur Conan Doyle

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, sign up for our online course or join our course in Johannesburg.

by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. How To Write A Beginning And An Ending That Readers Will Never Forget
  2. 10 Elementary Tips For Writers From Sherlock Holmes
  3. The Daily Word Counts of 39 Famous Authors