Friday, August 12, 2011

Characters You Care About - Finding Nemo

I don't know about you, but I love the movie Finding Nemo. My youngest daughter got the dvd as a birthday present, and she's watched it something like a million times since then (yes, I'm exaggerating...but not by much :D) Anyway, I've watched it again and again with her more times than I can count, and I'm always surprised that I'm not tired of it.

That got me to thinking. Why do I like watching Finding Nemo so much even though I could probably recite the lines from memory? The answer, for me at least, was obvious. It has some wonderful characters. All of the main characters are full of personality, quirkiness, and seem so real.

Take for instance Marlin. He's a neurotic, overprotective father who obsesses about keeping his son Nemo safe. We saw why he was like that during the first few minutes of the movie (which always makes me teary-eyed) and we can connect to that desire to protect our loved ones. No matter how grumpy or impatient Marlin is, we can relate to him because of that need.

His son, Nemo, is the one we want to protect. He has a defect and he's been sheltered by Marlin his whole life, but he longs for the freedom to be his own person. Something we all can relate to.

Then there is Dory. Oh, how I LOVE Dory! Scatter-brained, funny, and lovable, Dory drives Marlin crazy on his quest to rescue Nemo. She's also the catalyst for most of the conflict during the journey. Yet despite these flaws, she embodies the longing we have for true friendship.

As writers, we strive to create characters like these. Characters who live, have feelings, have goals, desires, and flaws. It's hard to do, but if done well, your readers will come back to your books over and over again.

So what do you think? Do you find it hard to create characters that you can care about? Who are some of your favorite characters?


  1. I think you hit it. We want characters to care about. With every ms I try to make my characters as real as possible.

  2. I agree. What makes a person read a story are the characters--good or bad. You can have all the action in the world or romance, but if your reader doesn't care for them it makes it harder to stay plugged in.

    We want to care and we want to root for them.

  3. Laura - Exactly! What's the point of reading a book if you don't even care what happens to the characters?

    Ladonna - That's a great point! I want to be able to root for the characters and be invested in what happens to them.

  4. Great post. It's really, really difficult to create characters worth connecting with, in my experience, anyway. I think part of my problem is that they're so real in my head--as in, I know everything about them before I even start writing their stories-- that sometimes I forget to let the
    readers in on their secret world, if that makes sense. Things about a character (feelings, goals, desires, etc...) that seem so obvious to me (because I created them, duh) aren't always so obvious to the reader.

    Also? I really wanna watch Finding Nemo now. "I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Squishy."

  5. If I don't care about characters, it makes it difficult for me to feel invested in the book.

    I loved Wall-E, even though he didn't say a word. He wanted to do his job well and kept a routine in the midst of loneliness and despair.

  6. Stefanie - You're right! I've found myself doing that, too. Plus, that's true for setting the scene. When I write, I see everything clearly, but sometimes I leave out key details that will help the reader visualize the same thing (or something similar). I love that quote from Finding Nemo! One of my favorites is when Dory and Marlin swim down in the dark part of the ocean to find the goggles and when Marlin talks to her, she asks "Are you my conscience?"

  7. Theresa - Oh, I love Wall-E, too! Isn't he the cutest thing? I think we have that on dvd. Now I want to watch it again:D

  8. Yes, great characterization is the key to great stories. We remember characters long after plot is forgotten. The makers of Finding Nemo definitely got it right!

  9. Characters are so important. I spend most of my pre-writing time developing them. I missed you! Can't wait to catch up.

  10. Elle - You're exactly right about remembering characters long after the plot if forgotten.

    Susan - I missed you too!!! I'm so glad you're back!

  11. I think this is where I struggle the most.
    These people live in my head, but I have a hard time conveying the importance of what they feel and why they feel it sometimes. It's like Stefanie said, I forget to let people in on their world. :D

    Good post!

  12. I have Finding Nemo memorized too - it was my oldest's favorite movie (or maybe I just kept turning it on because I loved it). The best thing about the characters is that they are very 3 dimensional. They're also real and not contrived. Some of my characters have been flat, I admit it. The ones that succeed are the ones I actually care about.

    Great post! :)

  13. Laura S. -I know what you mean. I have to constantly go back and try to read what I've written as if it's the first time I'm reading it. I tend to leave out so many details at first because I already see it in my head. :D

    Laura B. - I agree, the characters in Finding Nemo are definitely 3-D. Especially Dory. I love Dory! She reminds me of my sister.