Role: Making Characters Memorable

12:00 AM Gemma Fitz 0 Comments

Hey y'all. I've got a special treat in store for you today. I begged my super talented friend, C. C. Gaylord, to do a ghost post for me, and being way too nice for her own good, she acquiesced. For better or for worse. Only definitely for better.

Over to you, C.C.
Original image courtesy of
My biggest frustration when reading a book with multiple main characters is trying to keep everyone straight. Granted, I have a terrible memory. Plus, I’m always rushing through the book to find out what happens. My common reaction to a character is, “Brent? Who’s Brent, again?” And I’m not likely to flip back several chapters to find out.

In movies, on the other hand, I usually have no problem remembering who’s who. This isn’t just because I can see what the characters look like, but because the characters usually slide into well-defined roles. Each character has a particular function within the team. You can do this just as easily in a book and get the same great results.

The Lord of the Rings, for example, has a main cast of nine characters. That’s a lot of people to keep straight and Tolkien didn’t do a lot to help the reader out with this in his book. The movie, however, did a great job, not just because each character had his own unique personality and quirks which made him unforgettable even long after the movie was over, but also because each character had a specific role.


Gandalf’s role is that of protector, mentor, and guide (that useful character who gives everyone--particularly the audience--important information about what’s going on or how things work in the story world). Mentors often die so that the hero has to face the bad guys on his own and discover he has what it takes. What does Gandalf do? He dies so Aragorn has to take over.


Aragorn is at first a guide and becomes the default leader after Gandalf dies, besides becoming personally responsible for Frodo, the fellowship’s biggest liability. The leader is usually a strong, responsible character who thinks of his followers before thinking of himself.

One-Man Army

Legolas is a guide (there’s a lot of guides so far) and the-person-who’s-there-to-be-really-awesome-and-make-the-audience-say-wow. He also functions as a sidekick/friend for Aragorn--the person who gives him pep talks. Add to this his role as the one-man army. This is the “strong man” character who ends up saving the day quite a lot by basically taking out bad-guy armies on his own.


Gimli serves as comic relief and very little else (we’re going by the movies here), although he’s also the little-guy-who-overcomes-great-odds and he fills an important function by teaching Legolas (and learning himself) not to judge people by their race. Let me just say that it’s usually NOT a good idea to make a character comic relief and nothing else *cough* like the character below *cough*


Frodo is the attack magnet. (They’re useful to have around.) He’s also the “chosen one” who has to destroy the ring, so he becomes the most important member of the fellowship. He’s the person everyone else has to look after--in a lot of stories this role is taken by the baby brother/sister.
Sam fills the servant/sidekick role--he’s there to get Frodo to Mordor. But he becomes a hero in his own right later on in the story. Sidekicks often do. In fact, sidekicks are way too often the most popular character in the story. Ask anyone who’s his favourite character from The Lord of the Rings--it’ll probably be Sam.
Dynamic Duo
Merry and Pippin together make up a dynamic duo who usually do things in company. They spend most of the time getting themselves and other people into trouble, but they liven up the story quite a bit. Lots of stories will include a duo or even a trio. They’re usually immature. They’re often siblings. Sometimes they’re even twins.


Boromir is the Judas figure. There’s usually one in every mix and you can often tell right at the outset who it is. He just looks dark, or brooding, or compromised. The traitor is generally in the story to add an element of menace--how else to explain how the whole audience knows who’s the bad egg while everyone in the movie has no clue? But the traitor isn’t always wholly evil--he’s often a tragic character who falls but then redeems himself, though at the cost of his life. A lot of villains fall into this category as well (Darth Vader, for example).

Believe me, there are LOTS more roles out there than just these eight, but you’ll find most characters fall into these common ones.

Think of your favourite movies--especially those with more than one main character--and list some of the roles the characters play in them. What about The Avengers? Ocean’s Eleven? Maze Runner?

So, what are some of the roles you thought of? What are some of the roles characters fill in your stories? Is anyone here and Avengers, Ocean's Eleven, or Maze Runner fan? Tell us in the comments!


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