For people who love reading and discussing fantasy, Best Fantasy Books is a wonderful website for learning more about the genre and finding recommendations, and their forum provides a great place to meet fellow readers and watch hours of your life slip away. Right now they are in the midst of a tournament to select the best fantasy character ever, and this little contest got us talking about our favorite characters. More specifically, it got us talking Tuesday evening as we arrived at an informal meet up with some folks from our writers group. One of the members of the group immediately said, “You need to blog about this.” Turns out, she is absolutely correct!
So here we are to start counting down our 10 favorite fantasy characters. Tonight, we bring you characters 10-8 and in the coming weeks, we’ll not just rank but discuss what we find so intriguing about these characters and what they have meant to our writing.
As we came up with our list, we considered a number of factors, such as complexity and admirableness. But all the characters on this list have two things in common: they have spurred multiple discussions between the two of us, and they are characters we genuinely enjoy reading about. In practically every discussion we ever have about what makes a hero heroic, we eventually end up talking about our number 9 and 3 choices. Whenever we talk about writing realistic female protagonists, we always use the girls who appear at number 10, 8, and 6 as examples. We practically couldn’t discuss how to make a villain sympathetic without making reference to the gentlemen who are numbers 7 and 2.
So here they are, counting down from number 10:
When we started writing fantasy, we both began reading more modern fantasy and getting tips from the wonderful podcast, Writing Excuses. Pretty soon it became clear that we had to pick up Brandon Sanderson, and we couldn’t be more glad that we did. We started our journey with Sanderson where many people do, the Mistborn Trilogy. What most people take away from this series, and Sanderson in general, is that it has a remarkably complex and fascinating magic system. Actually, systems, plural, all revolving around the effects metal has on some people’s bodies. Now, while we appreciate the magic in Mistborn, what we like even more is Vin. A street urchin attached to a second rate gang, Vin is parentless, friendless, beaten, and unloved. But in spite of this, she never loses her spirit, and when Kelsier arrives in her life, she’s ready to earn her change. You see, Vin, like Kelsier, is Mistborn, meaning that she can ingest metals to essentially become a kickass superhero. And she works her butt off, further earning everything she gets as a magical warrior. This kind of development, where a lead character is blessed with not just powers, but powers outstripping just about everyone else, can make it tough to sympathize with the character. But watching Vin get a lot in life that she deserves is a treat we are certainly trying to replicate with the hero of the Quartet, Bertie.
9. Neville Longbottom
The great thing about Neville is that he never truly gets discouraged, no matter how bad things get for him—and they get pretty bad. His parents have lost their minds and can’t even recognize him, he’s hopeless in class, and even his friends think he’s a bit of a dork. But he keeps plugging away, no matter what. And in the end, he’s the character who has the longest arc in the whole Harry Potter series. We get to watch him grow into a genuine badass. He starts as the kid who can’t find his pet toad. He ends as the guy who stands up to Voldemort even after they all think Harry is dead and they’ve lost. As authors, it’s very easy to concentrate on the protagonist to the detriment of the other characters. But even secondary characters, like Neville, can have compelling personal arcs. In the Quartet, one of our secondary characters, Tynble, develops in a very similar way to Neville. She starts out a bit hopeless, and the main characters don’t pay much attention at all to her. But in the end—not to give any spoilers—she becomes incredibly important.
8. Tiffany Aching
A few years ago, we listened to the audio book of Wee Free Men together, and we loved it. Tiffany, as S has put it, is “plucky done right.” She is an active heroine; in spite of her youth, she takes responsibility for saving the world, or at least her little corner of it. You just can’t help rooting for her to win. She’s smart, but she’s smart in a totally believable way that will feel terribly familiar to anyone who was a precocious reader as a kid. She’s read the dictionary all the way through, for example, and knows all sorts of big words, but doesn’t know how to pronounce them. A smart, plucky, active heroine is easier to like than one who simply reacts to things around her. In A Glass of Sand and Stars, for example, one of the main characters, Ollie, is a girl who dresses as a boy to attend a medieval university. Then she risks it all and reveals her real identity in order to get what she wants. It’s far more interesting than if she just sits around, waiting to get caught.
So there you go. Stay tuned for numbers 7, 6, and 5!
J and S