What Makes Good Characters?

Vision 13


What Makes Good Characters?


Members of Forward Motion

Copyright © 2003, Lazette Gifford, All Rights Reserved


In the article below, the members of Forward Motion offer a few insights into what makes a favorite character for them. And they had plenty to say, about both heroes and villains!


Nodigio: I've discovered I am partial to hero characters like Miles Vorkosigan of Lois McMasters Bujold's Vokosigan series, and Honor Harrington from David Weber's Harrington series. Both characters have a strongly developed moral and ethical sense, and they don't hesitate to act in line with them, regardless of the consequences.

Miles and Honor are well fitted to their worlds, products of their culture while still individuals. They have inner demons which goad them as they prod themselves to fulfill what they see as their duty. These characters are well defined, not just by the actions they must take, but by the secondary, equally fleshed characters who are affected by them. They shape their world as well as being shaped by it.

I also am drawn to stereotype breaking characters such as Cimorene from Patricia Wrede's Dealing with Dragons (ISBN 0590457225) and Sophie from Diane Wynne Jones' (ISBN 006441034X). Both characters break their particular stereotype. Cimorene isn't a primping princess all full of fashions and dancing, but a practical tomboy not afraid to risk her life and welfare to get more from life. Sophie comes at her breakage from a different angle. Both characters are strong and determined, even stubborn. Cimorene is more selfish, and grows out of that. Sophie is more stubborn, and learns differently. Both remain strong and true to themselves. These authors use action to define their characters, placing them in situations where their character must be revealed.

Cimorene and Sophie are as they are in spite of their world. The primary people affected by their actions are themselves, and the secondary characters aren't as critical to their character development.

Mikeme:  (Anti)hero - Thomas Covenant -- Stephen R Donaldson - The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

Why -- well apart from the angst, he's the character who has most kept me guessing, the whole way through a 6-novel series.

Villain - Immacolata -- Clive Barker - Weaveworld

Why - She is one of the most believable villains I've met - powerful, vengeful, but at the same time, frail and weak in a lot of ways. And most of all, her power has limits, and she knows them.

What generally makes a character memorable to me is that they are DIFFERENT. I don't want archetypes. For example, I want a hero who is the most unlikely hero and remains unlikely (ie doesn't suddenly grow into his/her role as hero) and yet still somehow manages to save the day.

Pkurilla: Villain -- Luercas from Holly's Matrin novels. Talk about a villain you love to hate! He's a combination of Iago (playing on people's fears and insecurities) and a Machiavellian prince (willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals), and the combination plays brilliantly. Unlike many villains, Luercas doesn't make stupid mistakes, although he does underestimate the sheer determination of those who oppose him.

Hero -- Hm. That's tough. I really enjoy Adam Sinclair of the ADEPT series by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris. Sinclair is larger-than-life in that he is a noble, wealthy, knowledgable, and compassionate. But he still gives an everyman kind of feeling that I find appealing.

Unfortunately, I tend to remember stories more than characters, and I don't know why. I wish I could say something more useful.

Atlantissong: Hmmm... Most of mine would have to be hero's...

Legolas and Aragorn from Tolkien both stick out in my head. They are both so wise and determined to see their mission completed. There also was just something about the elves that really resonated with me.

Alanna and Dayne (sp?) from the Lioness Rampant and The Immortals series respectively are also still very special to me even though I read the books ages ago. They are both women in a very male dominated world that are willing to do anything (with in their ethic standards) to achieve what they want, but also deal with the same trials that every girl deals with, from love to coming of age to acceptance.

Davidstone: Generally, characters who do things for themselves, ones whose achievements are made because they got stuck in and made them happen against the odds.

This has been driven home through a book I'm currently reading, a romance novel. It's a great story and the heroine is really likable, but practically everything she's gained has been given to her with virtually no price. It's as if she's already paid the price from her downtrodden childhood/early adulthood and has now earned a break. Fair enough, but I'd prefer to see her fighting back, rather keep 'running away' and/or getting 'rescued'. But maybe that's a characteristic of the genre.

Memorable characters:

Thomas Covenant from Stephen Donaldson's First and Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.

Initially he comes across as unlikable, but if you can get past that to see the deeper aspects of him, he is in fact a deeply sympathetic character: a real man thrown into an appalling situation. There is very much a sense of 'There but for the grace of god go I' in reading of his reactions: while we could hope to do better if we were in the same situation, Donaldson has thrown elements of total reality into his fantasy which belie the normal gung-ho elements. Covenant is a character who starts off utterly helpless, but learns to fight against impotence and to keep going even when that fight is itself impotent.

Minerva, from Holly Lisle's 'Minerva Wakes'

Embodies the elements of a person who won't give up, who has to fight against the odds for everything she gains and in doing so gains more than she had originally set out to achieve

restless pen: Anti-hero-- Edward, from the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. Mysterious, deadly, bad-boy, good guy in his own way and depending on the situation.

hero: Tolkein's Aragorn

hero, underdog: Jon Snow, George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice & Fire series. Noble, undervalued, unselfish while being sometimes a self-martyr.

Hero: Roland, from Stephen King's Gunslinger series.

Heroine: Brierley Mefell, Diana Marcellas' "Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea" -- practical, self-sacrificing, hopeful

I think I'm most drawn to characters who give of themselves, even against impossible odds, characters who fight for what they believe in without complaining about their roles.

Thebooster: Duncan, Finn, and Alix from the Cheysuli books by Jennifer Roberson. OMG, talk about loyalty and honour when it comes to those of the Cheysuli race!! I love it.

I also adore JP Beaumont of the JP Beaumont mystery series by JA Jance ... reading a JP Beau book is like hanging out with an old friend. If he were a real human being ...

Lanisse:  I think my favourite female character has to be Paksenarrion Dorthansdottir from Elizabeth Moon's series. She's a strong and powerful character but with all the vulnerabilities of a 'real' person. By this, I mean she isn't invulnerable or invincible or utterly perfect. She gets where she needs to be by dint of hard work, effort and plenty of trials. Things happen to her and she suffers beause of it, but she doesn't give up.

My favourite male character is Aragorn from Tolkein's Lord of the Rings. Again, he's a strong character with vulnerabilities - a character that has to acheive things by his own sweat.

I don't like characters that spend a whole novel whining about how hard life is, or who have amazing magical abilities without consequences. (Garion, are you listening?)

Zephrene:  Hmm.... The first few heroes that leap to my mind are:

Francis Crawford, from Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles (The Game of Kings, ISBN: 0679777431, et al.) because he is a right bastard when he has to be, ruthless in pursuit of his goals, but genuinely cares for the people dear to him, even when he is forced into actions that hurt them. And because he's a swashbuckling, tormented genius of a character whose nemesis destroys so much he loves, yet he comes through to a kind of peace in the end.

And for that matter, Francis's complement on the female side, Philippa, is one hell of an impressive heroine, too, navigating politics, seraglios, royalty, and the scum of the earth to come through in the end.

I also love Harry in Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword (ISBN: 0441068804), because she stays herself in the face of overwhelming cultural and magical changes, and stubbornly stands up for what she thinks is right, risking much and winning in the end. (Of course, we all like winners, I suppose.)

And Rose in Louisa May Alcott's Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom (ISBN: 0316030899) - because she's a fairly normal young woman, whose life is made extraordinary by her intelligence, her family, and her emotional growth from girl to woman.

And I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

I'm currently swooning over Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe, too, and a nastier, nobler, more gut-wrenchingly real character I've not read in a long time.

Hm... there are certainly more and I'm sure I'll think of some later...

-- And I have! D'oh! How could I forget Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson from Elizabeth Peter's awesome mystery series? (Introduced in Crocodile on the Sandbank, ISBN: 0445406518, although I discovered them first with The Hippopotamus Pool, ISBN: 0446603988 - I mean, it had a hippo on the cover. It was calling me!) I love them. For a couple of Victorian/Edwardian archaeologist-sleuthes, they certainly break all the boundaries. And their kids! Oh, their kids! The drama has heightened in the last few books as the group enters World War I, but they're all still strongly funny.

Jacobine:  Mmm, Lymond. I'd definitely have to agree there, despite the fact that by book four I wanted him to be hurt in as many painful ways as possible because he kept getting out of scrapes. (Yeah! Hurt him! Do it again!)

And Philippa, definitely, as well. But I also have a fondness for Marthe and her brittle pride in that series.

Other Dunnett: Nicholas in the Niccolo books; he's more real to me than Lymond is. And his counterpart, Gelis, much like Philippa with her own strengths and tragedies and weaknesses.

I also have to agree with the folks who mentioned Jon Snow for George R R Martin's stuff. And Tyrion. And Jaime. I tend to prefer the sardonic humor and tough choices when choosing favorites.

Eliste: You know, at first I couldn't really pinpoint any one. Then I kept thinking about it and have become ambushed by possibilities.

Bast came to mind first, from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. She features most prominently in the graphic novel Brief Lives. She's a minor character, but her portrayal as the direct-yet-wise goddess of cats is delightful.

Then there is Corwin, from Roger Zelazny's Amber series (first book: Nine Princes in Amber). I gave him my heart years ago; he's wise and stupid and clueless and gallant and determined to save the world in spite of the fact that there are many others with more knowledge & power then he.

Diarmuid, from Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionavar Tapestry (First book: The Summer Tree). Cuz he's way cool and covered with panache.

Sning, from Piers Anthony's Bearing An Hourglass. Sning is short for SNake rING, and that's what he is. A magical snake ring that can only communicate by squeezing your finger. And he actually had a personality. The whole concept of a non-talking magic ring as a character is very neat.

For villains, I tend to go to the classics.

The Marquise de Merteuil, and her co-conspirator, the Vicomte de Valmont, from Dangerous Liaisons, by Choderlos de Laclos. Two more cheerfully nasty people I dare you to find.

Madame Merle, from Henry James' Portrait of a Lady. Another cheerfully nasty woman who manipulates her friend into a horrible marriage so the groom can have her money. Yum!

A not-classic, Stephen Donaldson brings us page after page of pain and suffering in the Gap series (First book: The Real Story), but also a great villain, Angus Thermopile. Reading about this character makes you want to shower. Oh, and another of Donaldson's great villains, Master Eremis from Mordant's Need (First book: The Mirror of Her Dreams). More twisted manipulation. I'm for the villains who mess up heads more than bodies.

Oh, I've gone on, haven't I? But there's still Mister Darcy from Pride and Prejudice! Fringe Owldark from Sideshow by Sherri Tepper! Lancelot from Le Morte d'Artur! Killashandra Ree from Crystal Singer by Anne McCafferey! Far too many to name or choose. 

Danran: I love Mr Darcy! I find myself skipping ahead to his scenes when I reread Pride and Prejudice(which is often)

Paul Sheldon and Annie are both great in Misery!

Maripat: Honestly, a lot of times I get caught up in the storyline but there are a couple of characters that stand out.

Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton. A take-charge woman, with a sense of humor. Even though she's tough she has a soft side to her. I have to admit though I'm more partial to the earlier books in the series. The last book struck me funny because it seems like she's turning into an over sexed super hero.

Dr. Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell. She's also strong, smart, and sensitive.

A series that I recently found called Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Artemis is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind but as the stories go on you start to see another side to him -- a reminder that he's only just a child. The other character in the book is Holly the elf. She's the first female in the LEPrecon Unit. She's very smart and loyal.

Lizvanzandt: Some of the most memorable characters I've read about come from Terry Brooks.

Allanon - the dark and brooding druid struggling valiantly through the long ages to preserve the knowledge of the all the people. Always misted in shadow and mystery, always keeping his ways secret and his motives hidden, an enigma that none can ever know! (First two sets of the series - Sword of Shannara, Elfstones of Shannara, etc.)

The Shannara's - all of them reluctant heroes who are always tested and found to be of the hardest steel! Generations of men and women, and even children, call forth their inherited magic to protect and serve the people of the four lands! Each one's magic is different from their ancestors, manifesting itself as uniquely as the person it belongs to!

Walker Boh - A Shannara by blood, but a druid by heart, mind and soul -- sharing the same desire as his predecessor to preserve the ancient knowledge of the people. And although he loathed Allanon for his secretive ways, he admired him as well. In the end he understood why Allanon kept his secrets safe within his own mind, for he too found himself doing it as well. He had no other choice (see "Ilse Witch").

Another great character I love is Harry Potter! I know, it's a kid's book but I can't help myself. I like them so much that I am now reading them to my daughter (and it is my second time reading them)! One character I like a lot it Dumbledore.  He is very endearing and full of wisdom and kindness. But, he is a mystery as well. He knows things about Harry that he is not telling (Book I - Sorcerer's Stone). Snape is very interesting too. J.K. Rowling does an excellent job in making you think he could turn medieval on you at any time! But I also like the fact that she shows the humanity in him as well. For instance, when he tried to save Harry's life in book one when his broom went nuts!

Holly's character Vincalis was awesome too! I liked him because he didn't really do anything loud and flamboyant. Instead he achieved his goal slowly and efficiently. He broke the back of an ancient world by the use of his intellect, his faith, and his courage to stand up for what he believed in. He could have lived the lie and lived in luxury but chose the truth and triumphed over treachery! (Vincalis the Agitator)

I could go on and on and on but I think I've taken up enough space for now!

Adri: My very favourite book character is Alice McKinley from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice books. Likely a lot of people here haven't read them, as they're YA, but they're just about a girl growing up without a mother, being raised by her father and older brother, but wishing she had a role model.

Alice is a sort of Everygirl. She's the most realistic character I've ever encountered. I love the healthy attitude she has about most things-- not as prudish as her worrywart friend Elizabeth, and not as "fast and loose" as her other friend Pamela. She's funny, she's painfully honest (sometimes her family thinks she's too honest), and she (usually) tries to do the right thing. If I ever have a daughter, I'm naming her Alice, partly after this character, and also after that other Alice... you know, one of the most famous characters in kiddy lit!

Someone mentioned Alanna and Daine from Tamora Pierce's books. I love Alanna, but I'm not much of a Daine fan. I can't really relate to Daine. She seems like too much of a Mary Sue to me. Everything seems to come a bit too easily to her. I am, however, really fond of Kel from Tammy's Protector of the Small series. Many girls seem to like Kel even more than Alanna, although Alanna's my favourite. Kel doesn't have any magic; she's not a "chosen one" like Alanna is. She's just a more or less regular girl who happens to kick butt and work really hard.

I prefer Alanna, though, 'cause Alanna's like me-- fiery hair and fiery temper!

DragonDancer: Heroes -- (human male) -- Fitz from Robin Hobb's Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies (ISBN of Farseer book 2, Royal Assassin: 0-553-57341-1). Flawed, reluctant, and somewhat private, he still cares deeply for the people around him -- although at times he cares too much. I often want to beat some sense into his head, though.

-- Nolan from Michael Stackpole's Talion: Revenant (ISBN: 0-553-57656-9). Strong, honorable, driven, heroic. And he's got a great sense of humor.

(human female) -- Cadence Drake from Holly's Hunting the Corrigan's Blood (ISBN: 0-671-87768-2). Honest, brave, funny, and can kick some serious butt.

-- Cherijo from Sheila's Stardoc series (StarDoc ISBN: 0-451-45773-0). Sarcastic, reckless, smart, and deeply concerned for those around her. The ultimate smart-aleck. If only I could come up with such snappy remarks...

I don't tend to like the villains. I remember them because they give me the creeps, but that's about all. That said, just thinking about Luercas from Holly's Secret Texts trilogy gives me the shivers.

Samantha_Kroese: Hmm, hard call but I'll try... To be one of my favorite characters a character has to be real to me, and I have to connect with them as I'm reading the story. They have to make me want to keep reading the story if ONLY to find out what happens to them. (Please forgive me if I spell anyone's name wrong... It's late and I haven't unpacked any of my books since the move...*sigh*)


Wraith from Holly's Vincalis - my absolute favorite character of all time (so far, he unseated Roland from the top spot which was hard to do, *laughs*)

Roland from Judith Tarr's Kingdom of the Grail (holding second place, while the rest are all sort of in a tie...though I love them all)

Solander from Holly's Matrin novels

Ry Sabir from Holly's Secret Texts trilogy

Eddard Stark and John Snow from George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (I think that's what they're called) trilogy.

Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (as if everyone hasn't heard of that by now).


Anyone notice good villains are hard to come by? Oh well...I have a couple favorites.  The rest have all faded from my memory...bleh...

I don't like the evil just for the sake of being evil villains, I like them to have genuine reasons, and also some redeeming qualities.

Jaime Lanister from George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire trilogy. (At first I hated his guts.  He made me sick just reading about him...but by the time the third book rolled around I actually started to like him). I also liked Tyrion a lot too.

Crispin Sabir from Holly's Secret Texts trilogy. (Luercas creeped me out too much, *laughs*)

Elaine: Female -- Scarlett O'Hara from GONE WITH THE WIND, by Margaret Mitchell. Without Scarlett, this would still have been a fine historical novel--but long since forgotten. Scarlet is courageous, intelligent, resourceful, and beautiful (or at least, everyone is convinced she is beautiful), but she is most remembered because she is cunning, manipulative, and selfish. Scarlet is not always admirable, but she is certainly never dull.

Ayla from CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, etc., by Jean Auel. Like Scarlet, Ayla is brave, smart, lovely, and possesses a native resourcefulness of titanic proportions. But unlike Scarlet, she is kind, utterly transparent, and completely without artifice, qualities we all wish we had but don't.

Charlotte from CHARLOTTE'S WEB by E.B. White. She may be just a spider, but she is unexpectedly wise, and she transcends her bloodthirsty nature through her compassion toward a fellow creature who is in many ways inferior to her. In the end she dies having spent her short life saving the life of another.

Male -- Frodo from THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien. Frodo is ordinary in many ways, but he has one outstanding characteristic: he is not a quitter. Those who attain a lifelong ambition through persistence often win our admiration, but how much more should we admire someone who gave up his lifelong ambitions and accepted a deadly burden no one else wanted, simply because it was the right thing to do.

Jamie Fraser from OUTLANDER, etc., by Diana Gabaldon. There are not too many fictional characters who can boast of their fan clubs, but Diana Gabaldon's tall, red-headed, 18th century Scotsman is one. He is the consummate educated warrior, both gentle and fiercely barbaric, when called for. Jamie is probably one of the most widely admired characters in modern fiction, for courage, honesty, personal charisma, and above all, an unimpeachable integrity.

And on the lighter side, Joe Morelli and Ranger from Janet Evanovich's humorous contemporary mystery series (ONE FOR THE MONEY, etc.). All of her characters are memorable, from Lula and Grandma Mazur to the heroine, Stephanie Plum, but the men in Stephanie's life are two of the sexiest guys ever to swagger across the pages of a modern novel. Their fans are legion, and staunchly divided as to which of the two they prefer. I'm a Ranger girl myself. Any guy who can make my stomach do flips simply by walking into the story is worthy to be enshrined in my own personal character Hall of Fame.

Teriodin: Favourite 'gritty' hero -- Druss (the Legend) (Legend, etc., David Gemmell) He's a believable character. He ages, he gets hurt, he fights on. He has a simple 'code' that he lives by, and he sticks to it.

Favourite 'fantasy' hero:

Sparhawk (The Elenium and the Tamuli series(es? *grins*), David Eddings). Again, a believable character but with a bit more humour to him. I often laugh out loud when reading those six books.

I really can't think of a 'villain' that has any real depth. I know you're not supposed to 'like' villains, but a lot of them do seem to be very two-dimensional.

Junedrexler:  I spent a lot of time thinking about this question because, at first blush, I couldn't THINK of anyone I wanted to mention. It's not that I don't think there are GREAT book characters, but, for me 'favorite' implies that I've made some deep personal and visceral connection with them. I don't usually do that for more than the time I'm reading the book. I LOVE a character while I'm reading him or her -- for the span of time I'm IN their book, they are my favorite. But, then I pick up a new book and find a different 'favorite'.

For a list like this, I wanted something more enduring. And, for that I have to go back to my childhood and youth and the characters that framed my concept of 'hero'. What's interesting, perhaps a bit depressing, is that these are all male for me. So, though I don't know if this will be of any value at all to the article, my list of 'most personally influential' characters follows.

Alladin -- not the stupid kiddiefied character, but the one written in the original Arabian Nights, with all his failings and self-centeredness and the bit with the bridegroom in the well.

Telemekos in the Odessey -- Hey, I was a kid when I first read that and I identified with the kid.

Tom Jones from the Fielding novel (not the singer)

Martha Rolfheart's King Henry V of England from her 1974 novel, Fortune Made His Sword.

A strange list. Wonder what it says about me.

SheWhoHathAPen: To avoid going on forever since I find at least one character I really like in every book I read, I'm only going to mention the ones that came straight into my head after reading the title of this thread.

Jaime Lannister of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. At first I hated him. Despised him. I mean I thought he was the scum of the earth. By the time I finished the third book I loved him. He has a certain loyalty and twisted honor about him that just intrigues me. He actually has his own principles and even though they're not necessarily what you would agree with he still holds on to them.

Arya Stark of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. She's this incredibly strong, incredibly brave, incredibly fierce little girl. I know a lot of people mention Jon Snow, and I like him but I knew that Arya had earned a special place in my heart the moment while I was reading the third book when I realized that I fear for her enemies when she's older. I just think Martin did a wonderful job creating a little girl that's going to grow into an incredible (and scary) woman.

Legolas of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I'm obsessed with all elves but Legolas holds a special place in my heart. He just had such a great sense of purpose. He knew what he had to do and he knew he would see it through to the end no matter what. He never wavered and never paused. And most importantly he never abandoned his friends. He stayed with the Fellowship to the very last, after all the adventure was over.  He stayed and put off his own desire to go to Valinor until there was nothing else his friends needed him for. That just fills me with a sense of awe. Plus, I find him terribly funny (though they left a lot of his sarcasm out of the movie).

Achmed the Snake of Elizabeth Haydon's Symphony of the Ages (which encompases the Rhapsody Trilogy and Requiem for the Sun). I have an unhealthy fixation on this character. He is in large part what carried me through the trilogy (which I liked decidedly less than its sequel). He's just so blunt and honest. He doesn't care what anyone else thinks. He trusts his own judgment and he handles his own problems whenever he can and even though he's the most unlikely and unwilling hero in the universe, he still manages to be a hero and maintain a loyalty and love for his friends. Plus, his sardonic wit and the fact that he sleeps on black silk sheets gives me shivers.

Ravenbear: To be honest, I've never really thought about it much, but if I had to pick some favourite characters I would have to say that most of the characters in Julian May's "Saga of the Exiles" series spring to mind. In particular, Aiken Drum and Felice Landry. I'm also rather partial to Uncle Rogi in the same author's "Galactic Milieu" series.

Tolkien's Gandalf has also always appealed very strongly to me, mostly because you are only given the merest hint, in Lord of the Rings, of who he is and where he comes from. I tend to like characters who have a certain mystery about them, that allow your imagination free rein.

KatFeete: This is a very, very difficult question.

One of my favorites - in part because I just finished Nightwatch - would have to be Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series (he's the main character of Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, and Nightwatch.) He's very, very imperfect: a former drunk and an exceptional cynic with a violent streak. But he... well, he's a cynic, but he still does the right thing. He doesn't believe in people at all, but he still spends his life fighting for the underdog, not because there's anything beautiful or virtuous about the underdog, but just because they are the underdog and nobody else is fighting for them. He has no comfortable illusions about himself or about anyone else, but... he does the right thing. He's probably the most heroic character I've ever encountered.

Villains I've had to think about, but I think my favorite would have to be Sir Brian Bois-Guilbert the Templar of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. I don't know how many of you are familiar with him

Selcaby: I like Emilio Sandoz in "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell. Firstly, because he's such a wise, fun person to know - he is not understood by everyone in the book, but is loved by everyone who does understand him. His transformation into the bitter, angry character in the later parts of the book (the book alternates between two different time periods) is done in a totally believable way, even though it's such a drastic change and we don't understand it until the end. But more importantly, I like him because of the way he sees his life as a pattern, orchestrated first by the Jesuit priesthood and then by God, to lead him up to one sublime moment - and then it all goes horribly wrong.

Then there's Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, in "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula le Guin. This is someone else who throws everything away for the sake of something extraordinary. Estraven is that impossible thing, a Prime Minister who doesn't care about patriotism, power or personal gain. Still, he's prepared to lie and steal, not to mention risk exile, danger and death for the man he believes can transform his world for the better.

Villains are more difficult. I've got a soft spot for Alex Burgess in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series. He is driven into villainy by fear, first of his father and then of the Lord of Dreams whom his father has imprisoned in the cellar. When his father dies he won't set Dream free because he's afraid of the revenge Dream might take. So he goes on towards the end of his life becoming more and more twisted and unhappy, until eventually Dream does escape and gets his revenge on Alex after all.

A purer villain is Sario Grijalva in "The Golden Key" (Jennifer Roberson, Kate Elliott, and Melanie Rawn). He's driven by pure lust for life, power, fame and a chance to express his huge artistic talent. And he actually does some good for his family down the centuries, even while he's murdering one young bright spark each generation in order to take over their bodies and live another few decades with a new identity.

StarDoc: Hero --Tie on this one -- Eliot Buchanan of "An Unbreakable Bond" by Robyn Donald, ISBN# 026375301 and Burke Drummond of "Night Fire" by Catherine Coulter, ISBN# 038075620X.

Runner-up: Tennessee Blackthorn of "Outlaw" by Elizabeth Lowell, ISBN#0373056249.

All of them are romance novel heroes, so probably not familiar to most of y'all but definitely, terrific heroes. 

Villain -- Crispin Sabir of Courage of Falcons by Holly Lisle, ISBN#0446610658. Evil, evil, evil and still he made me cry for him.

Female -- Kait Galweigh, Diplomacy of Wolves by Holly Lisle, ISBN#0446607460. Kait keeps me going back to reread the book while I mutter, "Damn, why can't I do this...."

What makes a memorable character for me?  They pretty much have to reach into my chest and tear my heart out. The test is always how many times do I reread the book -- in the case of all of the above, I'm into the hundreds now.

Ariella: As far as favourite heroes go, I have to second the votes of the people above who mentioned Harry from Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan. The two of them are so real, I feel as if they're old friends.

Both of these authors should also be mentioned for their supporting casts. I absolutely love Bujold's Emperor Gregor, and the way she has developed him from a toddler playing with toy dinosaurs all the way up to his wedding in the last book. It has got to be incredibly difficult to keep his personality consistent over several books, while changing and maturing him at the same time. My personal favourite scene is Gregor's interrogation of General Haroche in Memory (ISBN 0-671-87845-X), where he manages to be very, very restrained and very, very intimidating at the same time.

Robin McKinley gets my vote for the absolute best animal characters I have read anywhere. You can tell that she has spent a lot of time observing cats and dogs and horses very closely to capture their mannerisms, and at the same time each of her animals has a very distinct personality of its own. I particularly love Narknon the hunting cat.

For villains, my present favourite is Falcone, the pirate in Karin Lowachee's Warchild (ISBN 0-446-61077-1). Without stooping to graphic scenes or righteous indignation, Karin Lowachee has created the most disgusting sexual predator I've read anywhere. He's so creepy, you want to wash after reading about him--but only your hands. You don't want to have to take your clothes off for a very long time. If you haven't seen the book yet, find a copy and read it. It's the latest winner of the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest and it's amazing. I read the first twenty-two pages in the bookstore before I could even yank my nose out of it long enough to purchase it. Think classic C.J. Cherryh science fiction, but with a slightly darker tone.

mamarose1900:  I've been thinking about this a lot. I must have had a previous life in the 19th century because the ones that pop immediately to mind are from that period.

Jo in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She didn't let anything stop her, including the numerous rules of her time. The other three sisters have a fond place in my heart, too, each for reasons of their own.

Sherlock Holmes. I'm not sure that I'm attracted to him as a person so much as I am to his intellect and the puzzle aspect of the stories.

A pseudo-19th century--Irene Adler in the Irene Adler mystery series by Carole Nelson Douglas. She is another unconventional lady and a rival of Holmes in intellect and cunning. I love Penelope, Irene's Dr. Watson, too. She's conventional, but she gets the job done.

Laura Ingalls Wilder- I just love the Little House Books. She also overcame a lot to reach her dreams. I liked her mischievousness and didn't like the all-too-good Mary as much.

Other characters-

Frodo Baggins, Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein. He would rather stay home in the Shire, but off he goes, anyway.

A list of others-Nancy Drew, Alice (of Wonderland fame), the heroes of the Narnia series, and all three main characters in the Harry Potter series. I love long epics like Tad Williams Otherland books, which have many characters that stick in my mind.

There are too many great characters to name from a lifetime of reading, but the ones that I love have several things in common. What attracts me to characters is their courage and willingness to put others or a greater good ahead of themselves. They have a strong moral code. I also like that they look for another way rather than give up in the face of adversity. On a less grand scale, they also have common sense and don't act stupid or wimpy.

As for the villains, they don't seem to stick in my mind because so few are three-dimensional people. All too often they seem like they are nothing more than people who are against the hero, but not a person themselves. Maybe it's because rarely do we see the ordinary part of the villain's life or what, aside from beating the hero, he wants. Sometimes we don't even know why he wants to defeat the hero.

Kareen: Well the one that sticks out in my mind right now is Daemon from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy. I suppose he's an anti-hero. He's dangerous and sensitive, a killer and bound as a pleasure slave, the most sought after in the realms. He's my favourite because he has the right blend of danger and appeal to make a woman's knees turn to jelly! heh heh!

Another one is Emma Harte in A Woman of Substance written by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Emma is one of my favourite characters because of how she took herself from being a houseservant to the local rich family to being at the head of one of the biggest business empires. She had to make many sacrifices along the way but she always stayed true to her ambitions and goals.

Kiervin: I would have to say that Dog and Radgar, two Blades from Dave Duncan's King's Blades series. I love all of the Blades that he writes about, but they stand out. Radgar because of his humanity and quirky sense of justice. Dog, because, well if you read "Sky of Swords" you'll get it. He's impossible not to love.

And (NO groaning please) Dragon from Josie Litton's "Dream of Me". He does appear in the two earlier books, but "Dream of Me" is "his" book. Why him? His honor and outright sexiness.

And the last one... Sir Toby Jingle. Sir Toby Jingle's Beastly Journey was my favorite book as a kid. I got my hands on a copy about two years ago after a lengthy wait while Amazon searched for one for me. Sir Toby is a bright, spry old fellow who managed to stay sharp despite retirement. Great-grandfather sort.

A_Shelton: A few here.

Hero: Schmendrick the Magician

From: The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle

Why: I just love the fact that he turns out to be more than he thought he was. His magic doesn't always work right, but when it does work, it works when it's NEEDED and in a spectacular way. The outcome isn't what he'd hoped for, and there is no chance that he can reverse the magic . . . and there is all the certainty that he can't reverse the first effect of the magic: changing the wisdom of the Unicorn (Lady Amalthea) to that unlike any other Unicorn.

Villain: King Haggard (I consider him something of an anti-hero, explained below)

From: The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle

Why: Because he seems so lost, is so very lonely. He seems almost at a loss for things to entertain himself. He's so jaded he can only think to capture and hold the Unicorns--but in a rather unique way. It almost seems that some of the lines in the book are true, that "Haggard belongs to the Bull." In some ways, I think this is true, for without the threat of the Red Bull, he'd lose his Unicorns.

Hero: Honor Harrington & Nimitz

From: the Honor Harrington novels, David Weber

Why: I can't imagine one without the other. They share a protectiveness for each other, the ones Honor commands, and their friends. Honor manages to rise above every conflict in a BELIEVABLE way. What is normal everyday action for Harrington (escaping from a prison-planet) is horrifyingly miraculous to her enemies (the Powers That Be of Haven). Nimitz seems as much a part of the novels and plots as she does; I find it easier to connect with him, connect myself with what he's feeling, especially in relation to Honor. If they were real, I'd be afraid . . . I wish I could write such a believable character as David does with Honor.

There are more, but I can't remember them all. I've learned that I like good characters that display either a little bit of personal evil (that can be and is harmful to those around them) or a great deal of fallacy. I've developed a distaste for characters who are unalloyed goodness or evil without redemption. I also dislike characters who, because of previous saintliness, have no chance of being truly evil in some small way, no matter the circumstances. I want the characters I read and write about to have a little bit of evil; I want all characters to be average with such strong personal needs, beliefs, opinions and desires that these things make the characters what they are. External scarring is good. Internal scarring is BETTER.

I don't like cardboard bad guys. And I absolutely detest cardboard good guys.

Villain: Professor Severus Snape

From: the Harry Potter novels, J.K. Rowling

Why: I don't know. Maybe it's because Harry, Hermione, and Ron are always so certain he's the culprit. Sometimes he is, sometimes he's not. Otherwise, I really don't know why.

Hero: Vanyel Ashkevron

From: the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, Mercedes Lackey

Why: Because he somehow remains himself as he matures. I don't think I've ever read another trilogy about one character where I feel I "remember" the character at each age he was depicted so clearly--and still feel the same about him. Also, his conflicts were so intense and close to my own (depression and other emotional troubles) that I was AFRAID THE STORY WOULD CONTINUE IF I DIDN'T READ IT ALL RIGHT THEN (like a movie does when you leave the theatre). Lackey has come close to this intensity since then, but her writing has steadily begun to lose my interest. I still find characters I like, but none like Vanyel and, later, Talia (the Queen's Own Herald), and Kerowyn (who is not a Herald-Captain, but a Captain Herald--bad choice of word placement there; the Heralds have no "captain" but the Queen and the Laws).

Ruby: This was a really tough question to give a short answer to. I have so many, that I hardly know where to begin, so I'll just make a list.

Favorite Sorcerer/Wizard: Allanon, from Terry Brooks Shannara series. He's powerful, mysterious, and determined to save the people of his world wether they like it or not.

Belgarath the Sorcerer, from David Eddings Belgariad and Mallorian series', who has a less than reputable past, but is still favored by his god. He isn't your typical know it all super wizard, on a high horse.

Gandalf, from the Hobbit and LoTR series. Most will know why.

Favorite Hero/Heroin: Garion/Belgarion from Eddings Belgariad and Mallorian series'.

Drizzt Do'Urden, from RA Salvatore's Dark Elf books. I like that he tries to break the mold of who he is expected to be. He is ostracized and treated unjustly, but still fights the good fight, for both the people he loves, and the people who doubt him.

Polgara the Sorceress, from David Eddings Belgariad, and Mallorian series'. I know she should be up with the wizards but she always struck me as more down to Earth than that. I love that she does what needs to be done, and doesn't need anyone else's approval. I also love the way she's always keeping all the men in line and trying to make them, at least act civilized.

Favorite Villain: Wow, this is a tough one. Most villains are the guy you want to see dead (or worse) by the end of the story. I would have to go with Jarlaxle, from RA Salvatores, Dark Elf books. He's one that I really wanted to see more of in the books to come. Probably because he's not such a bad guy, he just did what he felt he had to do to survive in a society that favors females. He lets the good guys go when it doesn't do him any harm. He always has some ulterior motive, but you're not quite sure what it is at first. Jarlaxle is also a lot more cautious than most villains. He's not one to underestimate his adversary, or let his arrogance overwhelm his common sense.

Rikki: Favorite Characters that's kind of hard, but I'll try.

1. Miles Vorkosigan from Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga. Why do I love Miles? Well, hes's brilliant, but he's really flawed too. He's lucky as hell and can be utterly vicious in his on way. Wondering what he'll do next is half the fun of reading the serious.

2. Cherijo from Shelia's StarDoc series. I love Cherijo, I want to be her when I grow up.

3. Duncan Reever, also from StarDoc. I haven't really figured out why I like him, but there's just something about him...

4.Ivan Vorpatril also from the Vorkosigan Saga. He's just so..., so...normal. Which in its self is a major accomplishment.

5. Richard Zeeman from Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series (btw, let's just pretend that Obsidian Butterfly and Narcisuss in Chains *shudders* do not exist). I like him just because he's all sexy and boyscout-y.

6 Magnus (alias Gar Pike) from Christopher Stasheff's Rogue Wizard Series. I can just identify with him.

7. Jack Fleming from P.N. Elrod's Vampire Files. I like the whole nice guy vampire thing and the Depression era setting.

8. All of the main characters in the Harry Potter books. Especially Dumbledore who just he epitome of coolness.

There many more, but I guess that's enough for now.

Charlotte_S: What an impossible question. I suppose the characters I have liked especially are either the one's which elicit a strong emotional response or the one's which I identify with on some level.

There are sooo many to choose from. But I'll try.


Mio from Mio min Mio by Astrid Lindgren, he's just an incredibly brave little boy, the book still makes me cry.

Belgarath - from the Belgariad and Mallorean series by David Eddings, just so rougish and funny.

Bilbo Baggins, from The Hobbit by Tolkien, he has a special place in my heart.

And Gandalf - The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Fitz from the Assasin Series by Robin Hobb.


Ronja Rovardotter - Ronja Rovardotter by Astrid Lindgren, another childhood favorite.

Alanna from In the Hand of the Goddess (I think the series was called Song of the Lioness) by Tamora Pierce - the first fantasy novels that I read and reread till the books came apart.

Galadriel - The Lord of the Rings, because she refuses the ring.

Hermione from Harry Potter by JK Rowling, I know she's a know-it-all but I like her.


Lysaer from the series beginning with The Curse of the Mistwraith (The War of Light and Shadow Series) by Janny Wurtz.

Guinevere from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon, I know she's not really a villain but she was a character that I became so angry at that I classify her as one.

Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (the cad!).

I'm going to have to stop there or I will just go on and on!

JesusAddsFreely: I like Maxine Hong Kingston's 'Wittman Ah Sing' for quite a few reasons. You can find him in 'Tripmaster Monkey.'

He's a recent Berkeley grad of the '60s, and as you might guess from the title, leads a group through a drug trip they have.

I enjoy his imagination, and some of his credos.  His imagination is a manic and educated foray into almost everything, with an emphasis on his Chinese-American identity shaping what he views.

His credo that I most enjoy is that he will buy a sandwich and then leave it piping hot in some public place so someone who is hungry can come along and share the wealth. Of course, he will go the other way too, and pick up things that don't belong to him, sort of figuring I guess that it all works out in the end. I just enjoy, and to some degree want to emulate, his free attitude of sharing.

Spacemecha: Most of my favorite characters are from Anime.

My favorite Good Guys:

Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion, He just makes me realize that it isn't that bad. But then again. A new world order shouldn't put really big mecha in the hands of angry, dysfunctional 14-year-old children. It's just not the smartest thing to do, even if you want to join with all the rest of the human race in one big mind orgy and turn your bodies into Tang.

Hero Yui, because in Episode 10 of Gundam Wing. He self destructs Gundam Wing Zero and almost himself along with it to prove that he above all others is willing to sacrifice himself for the cause he follows.

The Shrike in Dan Simmons, Hyperion Cantos. Unstoppable, Unkillable (excepting by the man he was based upon) Able to time dilate. He is probably the ultimate fighter I can ever think of, excepting maybe having Doomgiver from Fred Saberhagen's Swords Series, or the Protoge from Marvel Comic Books, Guardians of the Galaxies. He would practically be unstoppable.

Fitz Chivalry in Robin Hobbs Farseer Trilogy and her new Tawny Man series. He just is plain cool. A bastard royal child. Always sick when a kid. Uses two types of magic -- one forbidden one only now used by the Royal family. Trained to be an assassin. His girlfriend with their child left him. He's been killed and resurrected kind of, and everyone thinks he's dead. Oh and he's supposed to be the White Prophets Catalyst to change destiny. How can you not like a character that has so many problems and still can get the job done.

Favorite Bad Guys(only one I guess):

Char Aznable. He is from the Mobile Suit Gundam series up to Mobile Suit Gundam Chars Counterattack. Called the Red Comet. This is the man who has it all. Basically a super ace Mobile Suit Pilot. A newtype on top of that. The leader of Zeon's forces by the end of the Mobile Suit series. He Wants to destroy all life on Earth to disinfect it's surface and make it so the Spacenoids living in the colonies have less problems to deal with. He does end up drop a few asteroids onto Earth. A man who will go to any length to do what he believes in and still look good and have style.

DarkAngel: Heroes... hmmmm...Jon-Tom Merriweather, fom Alan Dean Foster's "Spellsinger" series, is definitely one for me. He's a totally inadequate hero who never becomes macho or unbelievable, but deals with his quests in his own way and keeps his integrity. I'd also have to say Sam Vimes (Terry Pratchett, as above) because he's intelligent, has a sense of humour, is good at his job, loves his wife... and is also humble in a touching way. Garp, from John Irving's "The World According To Garp." I can identify with the layer of cynicism that covers the empathy he feels for others, the way he can be cruel even when he doesn't want to be. He is a person with faults, and is endearing.

A non-human hero- Hazel, from "Watership Down-" Richard Adams, I think. He's not the biggest or the cleverest or even the most useful to the journey, initially, but he earns respect and eventually becomes the leader. He's calm, wise and brave.

Heroines- Anne Shirley from L.M Montgomery's "Anne Of Green Gables." She admittedly gets slightly irritating in the later books, but she is imaginative, loving, and individual in spite of the difficulties it causes her.

Scout Finch, from Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." Her perspective on life is both funny and clear. She is courageous, down-to-earth and is continuously learning about the world around her.

Rhoda Greypaull Salter, from "Double Wedding Ring," by Patricia Wendorf. A strong and selfless woman who sacrifices most of her life for her family.

Miss Celie, from Alice Walker's "The Colour Purple." She is treated badly by almost everyone in her life, but she always sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and never loses her faith.

My favourite, however, Laura Ingalls Wilder, from the "Little House" books, the first "long" books I remember reading, and the person I am called after.  You get to know her so well in the books, she is a giver, and is somebody who led a rich and fascinating life.

My all-time favourite villains, I think, are Artemis Fowl (Eoin Cofler) and Shakespeare's Iago. (Othello.) I'll have to come back and finish this list later!

Hollylisle: Heroes --Number Ten Ox and Master Li -- from Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds and following volumes -- now sadly out of print and harder than hell to find. They are witty, strange, passionate, courageous and cowardly at just the right times, and so wonderfully and beautifully written that it kills me that Hughart just fell of the face of the planet without writing more.

D'Artagnan, from The Three Musketeers and subsequent volumes. Capable, courageous, passionate, witty, a sucker for a pretty face, the ultimate guy in great clothes, testosterone as iconic art. (I'm also swept away by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Man in the Iron Mask, and Robin Hood, for what it's worth). In fact, the heroes I write draw heavily from these guys -- and if they happen to be women a lot of the time, well ... women heroes need cool roles, a code of honor, and swashbuckling, too.

Huck Finn in Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. He had the courage of his convictions, and he was willing to be condemned to Hell to save a friend -- and there is nothing bigger or better or more honorable than that.

Jory, from Blade Dancer, by SL Viehl. Yes, I've read it already, yes, I'm gloating, and Jory so kicks ass. And she is deep and full of life and driven by an injustice of mind-boggling proportions and in spite of a life of hell and hiding, she never forgets what makes her human (in the best meaning of that word), she does not end up on the wrong side in spite of plenty of reasons to do so and some real doubt there in the middle, and she hangs on to what matters through everything. Magnificent hero.


The Outsider in Watchers, by Dean Koontz. Evil and terrifying, but fully-fleshed out, and somehow poignant and touchable too. He scared the living daylights out of me and made me cry in turns, and at the end he broke my heart.

Flagg in The Stand, by Stephen King. He made over-the-top evil pretty -- you could understand its attraction.

The villain in Mary Higgins Clark's Loves Music, Loves to Dance. Giving the name would be a spoiler, so I won't. I don't like Clark's work as a rule, but this book blew me away, and the villain shocked the daylights out of me, and the surprise was so memorable I have never been able to forget it.

skelbs127: I'm actually one for villains myself. It is just a whole lot more fun to be evil I guess.

Favorite Villain:

Gavril from Deborah Chester's "The Sword, The Ring, and The Chalice" trilogy. Those were some awesome books that I found at a grocery store way in the back and out of the way. He just seemed more alive to me than any of the other characters (save for Dain, of course) because he wasn't just another villain that hated someone for no reason. He hated Dain because he was "different," "pagan," and "savage." She really didn't hold back with his racist views, and I really admire that.

Favorite Character All-Around:

Merlin. Anything about Merlin is so awesome. Except in one book, "I Am Morgan LeFay," the sequel to "I Am Mordrid." She pictured Merlin as this hollow, evil sorcerer. I've never seen him pictured like that, and it almost made me hate him.

de Rien: Milady, from The Three Musketeers.

Big Mikey: Characters I'd love to have sitting with me at a big banquet table:

1. Miles Vorkosigan and his wife, Ekaterin. And cousin Ivan!

2. Corwin of Amber, his son Merlin, and some of their relatives. Definitely Fiona. (If the seating is boy-girl-boy-girl, I hope to be seated between Fiona and Ekaterin!)

3. Archie Goodwin from the Nero Wolfe books. And Lily Rowan! Wolfe can stay home. (On second thought, would I want to miss sharing a meal with Wolfe? Of COURSE he can come! He's always on his best behavior at mealtimes anyway.)

4. Eddie and Sussanah Dean from the Dark Tower books, and Jake. Roland can come, but don't sit him next to me!

Samgodwin: These are the ones that spring to mind, though it's a tough question!

Heroes (well, at least sort of):

The Fool from Robin Hobb's Farseer, Liveship Traders and Tawny Man books. The only character who appears in all the books (though not by the same name or even gender), and the cornerstone of the series. Witty, sarcastic, cleverer than the others by ten times, but with such vulnerability that it breaks your heart...well, mine, anyway. Anyone who's read Robin's latest, the Golden Fool, will know what I'm talking about, since she's been steadily crushing my feeble hopes that things will turn out the way I want them to!

On the same note, Fitz as well, as I've never been a fan of first person writing and yet I never want to leave his head once I'm there. I've always gone more for the Sam Gamgee than the Frodo type - Fitz is always there, making things happen, but he's never the one to be hailed as a hero or given credit by anyone. He repeatedly gets anything he cares about stripped from him, but never turns his back when he's needed. How could you not love him?

Luciver, Daemon and Satan from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy - they're just incredibly cool and VERY different.

Thomas Covenant - if I can continue to have empathy for six books for a character who starts off that nastily, he must be interesting and complex, a perfect not-quite-hero.

Harry and Beauty from Robin MacKinley's The Blue Sword and Beauty respectively. Everyone's already discussed Harry, and Beauty is just as pragmatic, intelligent and likeable. Her characters are always doused with complete human realism - a real down to earth feel despite fantastic surroundings.

Hal Wokazanic (I probably spelt that wrong) from The Forever King by Molly Cochran, Warren Murphy - a cool modern Arthur tale. Hal is Galahad reincarnated as an emotionally wrecked cop, doomed to fail in protecting a young Arthur as he was doomed to fail in finding the Grail for him before. Always weaker than the villain, but too loyal to stand down. Loyalty being a trait I value above most others, I can't help but to be attracted to it in a hero!


While I'm on about the Forever King, Saladin, because he was a great example of what might happen to anyone, even a good man, who lived forever. And he was so damn evil that he made me shiver.

Crispin Sabir from Holly's Secret Texts, because she never fell into the trap of assuming that because someone is bad, they can't have good parts. I cried for him at the end, despite everything.

Lysaer from Janny Wurts' Wars of Light and Shadow. To me he is a shiveringly real evil character. For those of you who haven't read it, Lysaer was a 'good' prince (though I didn't like him even then!) who became cursed with an obsession to hate/destroy his half brother Arithon (the hero). To everyone in the world, he is Prince of Light, the saviour, the hero, the light of justice pursuing the evil Master of Shadows, Arithon. He is an effective villain because he believes that he is always acting for the good of his people, so everything he does is convincing. He could have turned out to be a tragic character (good guy forced to become an unwitting baddie) but for the weaknesses in his character that really do make him a villain - his willingness to sacrifice anything and anyone for the 'greater good', his ability to cast off those he supposedly loved on suspicion that they had betrayed him, for example. And for the brief time in which the curse was explained to him and he saw truly what he had been doing, and the atrocities he had caused - he chose the easier path, refusing the truth for fear of admitting to himself what he had done. That makes him one of the most believable, understandable villains I've ever read.