On the Subject of: My Favourite Character

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After suffering the loss of her only friend, Blubber the goldfish, Amelie is give an old camera to pacify her.

“It’s called a reality check. The last thing Amelie wants.”

Written by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant, whimsical french film Amelie tells the story of an introverted young woman who; following an odd little discovery in the bathroom of her flat, decides to try and make the lives of those around her a little bit more magical.

Played by actress Audrey Tautou, Amelie is not the sort of character you’d expect from a romantic comedy. Struggling with her own voluntary type of isolation and resulting loneliness, Amelie seems disconnected from the world even as she interacts with the wide range of people she knows.

These other characters in her life become the subject of quiet manipulation and influence, never suspecting Amelie’s involvement is the cause of their lives subtly changing. Amelie in turn seems content with the effects of her interfering, rather than wanting the thanks or praise from her friends and father.

Amelie is shown to have a very active imagination from an early age, as the open montage explains her limited contact with her parents results in her medically trained father wrongly diagnosing her with a heart condition. Believing her unfit for school, Amelie is taught by her school mistress mother, leaving her to grow up relying on her own fantasies for entertainment.

When she grows up, this lack of reliance on others for support and companionship finds her instead taking pleasure in the smaller, often dismissed little things. Dipping her hand into a sack of grain, skipping stones across a river, looking back at people’s faces in the dark of a cinema as they watch a film…

It is these character traits, however small and insignificant to the overall narrative or plot of the story, make Amelie so memorable.

In my last blog post about my Camp Nano novel, I was slightly concerned that my originally planned main character simply wasn’t holding my interest as much as another in the story. As fellow writer and blogger Sarah Cradit pointed out, perhaps there was a reason for this. I think that reason has a lot to do with how many small details; like the ones we are shown early on in Amelie’s story, I discovered very quickly about my other main character as I wrote about him.

I love Amelie’s character so much because I was able to connect emotionally with her, and if you’re expecting your entire story ride on the emotions and subsequent choices of that character, having them easy to relate to is important.

This isn’t a review of the film, and so I won’t go any further into explanations of it apart from Amelie’s introduction and background, but I can’t recommend it enough.

Although my current novel is nothing like the film, I find studying the characters I become attached to helps me think about how I go about writing my own. And how my future readers may connect with them as I do with Amelie.

Are there any character’s you find yourself particularly attached to? And has that study of their traits influenced the way you write your own?

3 thoughts on “On the Subject of: My Favourite Character

  1. Yes. One show which immediately comes to mind is Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. I’ll try to answer without any spoilers, in case you haven’t seen it.

    I think this has as much to do with the setting of the show as it does the characters: my NaNoWriMo story had a few shadowy organizations who were into modifying and experimenting on people, and my current WIP has characters who have lost their identities (and some who have gained new ones).

    My favourite characters from the show are Adelle, who runs the Los Angeles Dollhouse, and Topher, who is the one imprinting the “dolls” with new personalities (which he also designs). From the get go, we learn that while these two hold positions of responsibility, they’re not -categorically- evil. The development of these two characters as the show progresses is one of the most interesting things about it. A central from my NaNoWriMo pretty heavily based on these both of these characters, actually.

    (I’d think I would go as far as to say Dollhouse > Firefly. I’m a heretic.)

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    • Thanks for the lack of spoilers, I haven’t watched it yet. But better than Firefly?! You’ve given me very high expectations now. :D

      As much as I love characters like Amelie, who wander around their story worlds being beacons of lights and niceness, I have to agree that anti/morally questionable heroes are way more fun to read/write. I suppose that’s part of why I already like writing one of my main characters over the other – even though Kate is definitely more important to my storyverse.

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      • I agree on that: My NaNo novel’s “second” narrator (one chapter in every five or so is one of her diary entries) is much more interesting than my protagonist, and “morally questionable” sums her up really well.

        I can’t recommend Dollhouse enough – but many people didn’t like it for various (often understandable) reasons, so your mileage may vary.

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