April 6, 2010 | By: Tracy

Crushing on Characters

I haven't had a whole lot of time for personal reading the past week or so, but last night I finished Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Overall, I liked the story a lot (there were some things the characters said that I found more profound than most adults are capable of, let alone teenagers, but otherwise two thumbs up.)

It wasn't the type of story line I would usually think to pick-up for myself, but I wound up totally enjoying it. The reason why, I realized, is because I developed a crush on the male character. So what if he was only seventeen and a gang member?  He was also really smart, with a good heart, and only part of the gang because he was trying to protect his family & keep his younger brothers out of trouble, and then he fell head over heels for the girl from the right side of the tracks and ... ahem, sorry.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about most of the books that I consider to be my favorites. The reads that I enjoy so much I take the time to tell other people about them. The stories I still remember long after I've finished reading. Of course, good writing & excellent story telling are key components, but I've come to learn (for me) there HAS to be something else. It doesn't matter what genre it is, but in order for me to LOVE a book it has to have one of the following ingredients:

1) I have to fall in love with the male MC

2) I have to want to be - or be friends with - the female MC 

If a story can make me do BOTH at the same time, I'm guaranteed to love it!

I went back over the list of some of my favorite books to see if my theory holds true:

Pride & Prejudice : Lizzy is plucky and easy to admire, but really it's Mr. Darcy who makes me swoon at the end.

New Moon : I don't really like Bella, but I'm so crazy about Jacob Black that I'm willing to overlook the fact that he's only sixteen ... and a werewolf.

Vampire Academy Series : Rose is so snarky, I can't help but adore her. However it is her seriously sexy Russian mentor, Dimitri, that keeps me turning pages well into the night.

Those are just a couple examples (I didn't really think it would be appreciated if I listed every book I ever really enjoyed & why).

I wonder if this is just me, or if others tend to feel this way too. If developing crushes on characters is a common theme to really enjoying a good book, it could explain why women make up the larger percentage of fiction readers. Not that men can't do it (I've heard more than one guy admit to being smitten with Hermoine from Harry Potter), but they're more likely to need the action first & the affection will come with time.

Anyway, do you all find yourself developing crushes on the heroes & heroines in the stories you read? If not, what is the leading factor that draws you in and makes a really good book stand out from the rest?

11 witty remarks:

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Nope I'm afraid I do not develope crushes. What I need in a book, is for it to physically make me laugh and cry. Real emotion gets me hooked every time.

btw, I have something for you on my blog :)

JustineDell said...

Yup...duh - lol ;-) Since I'm a romance freak, it's pretty much the standard for me. The hero and the heroine must come alive for me. I must love them both.

Twilight, is the only exception to this. Like you, I was fond of the werewolf - and I hated Bella.

Matthew Rush is doing a guest blog for me today. If you get a chance, stop my blog and check it out. Thanks!


Tracy said...

Jessica - I think that's ultimately it for me too (the emotion) I just have to experience through an affection for the character. I have to cry FOR them or laugh WITH them. I saw my award, thank you! Now I have to figure out seven people to give it to myself. Eep!

Justine - I was there there while you were here, apparently. :o) And definitely in romance, more than any other genre, you HAVE to be emotionally connected to the characters. Especially the hero!

arlee bird said...

Never developed crushes, but I do like to establish a relationship--like a friendship or a sense of common identity. I like to see the character development and of course plot.
I finally read Pride and Prejudice last summer after owning a copy of the book for nearly 40 years. I absolutely loved it. Proceeded to watch every film version I could find afterwards.
Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

Matthew Rush said...

Hi Tracy, nope, can't think of a character in a book I've ever developed a crush on. Of course I'm a dude, so that may play a part.

For me I can love a particular book for so many different reasons. Sometimes it's the characters, sometimes it's the plot.

I just finished reading THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. Yes it won a Pulitzer, but I found the plot to be pretty bland. The characters were better but it was really the beautiful prose that drew me into the book.

This is not a common reason for me to enjoy a book - the writing has to be outstanding.

BTW go back to Jsutine's blog. I replied to your comment. Sort of.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

OMG!! I popped over from the Alliterative Allomorph to say hi and congratulate you on your award, but now I'm a new fan! BASEBALL! Do you know how few baseball freaks there are in a writing circle? You rock! I'm an obsessive Oakland A's fan, but if it's baseball, I love it. :-)

Shelley Sly said...

Hey, just discovered your blog and I can SO relate to this post. Yes and yes -- I have to like the girl (as in, want to be her or be friends with her) and I have to like the guy, a lot. It's sad how many stories I've read that don't have these factors in them, but when I do come across a story like this, I totally fall in love with it. Excellent post!

Tracy said...

Lee - I did the SAME thing after I finished reading P&P. I finally broke down over the last few weeks of winter to read it & now I can't get enough of that world.

Matthew - I tried to read Cormac McCarthy once (because "All the Pretty Horses" was Brad Pitt's favorite story... I already admitted to having a crush) but I couldn't get into it at all.

Shannon - Baseball chicks rule! I've found that at least one character in each story I've written is a baseball fan, so I'm guessing it carries over. lol

Shelley - There's just something about being able to REALLY connect with the characters that I think separates a good story from a great one!

arlee bird said...

Had to come back and add a comment to one of your earlier comments.
First of all, the main reason I picked up P & P last year is because I wanted to read P & P & Zombies and had to read the source first.

RE: Cormac McCarthy-- like P & P requires staying with it and getting into the rhythm and style of the writing. I almost gave up on P & P and didn't really get into it until well after the first 100 pages and I was glad I stayed with it.
Likewise, McCarthy requires getting into his writing zone. His dialogue can be difficult to follow and his style is strange at first, but I found as I stayed with him I got into his mind and I have been rewarded with some great writing in his books.

Tracy said...

Thanks, Lee! That's some good advice. Maybe I'll have to give McCarthy another try.

I'll admit to being one of those "you have to grab me fairly early on" types. P&P was slow to start, but I'd heard so many people gushing over it that it kept me pushing through until I was hooked.

ModernDayDrifter said...

Yes! I develop crushes! If I don't like the male MC I can't usually finish the book! I'm glad to hear that I'm not alone in this! I can't stand guys in real life who are arrogant and stuck on themselves so I like the rugged, quiet type. If the book starts out with this self centered character I usually give up on it.

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