Characterizing...dead characters

by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Hello again, We all know that a great: plot,setting, structure, and theme makes up great stories. However, one of the most important, in my opinion, is making unforgettable characters. That can be done with: their name, clothing, attitude, style, actions, skills, influence, etc. Because of this, characterization is very important to make a character unforgettable.


So my question is, is it possible to have great characterization for a character that died early in a book or series through flashbacks? For instance, can we have great characterization with a dead character based off his/her actions from the past and how people perceive them?

For example, despite that fact that they have died before the start of the series, James and Lily Potter were mentioned a lot and were involved with many other character's flashback to help us and Harry get a better understanding of them.

Answer: Well, let's consider how Rowling manages to give us an impression of these characters.

First, we have other characters memories of them, including feelings as well as information.

Then, as you point out, we have flashbacks (via the pensive) to scenes of their youth.

We also know some of the things they did in their life. They died protecting their son. They fought against Voldemort. They left a fortune to Harry, etc.

Of course, there are other devices writers have used to make a dead character's influence felt in the present: letters, wills, recordings, dreams, artifacts left behind, portraits, to name a few.

The one limit of course is that it is hard for a dead character to take new actions. Their actions are all finished. This is a limitation because sometimes the best impressions of a character come from watching them handle a new situation or problem. Dead characters, generally, can't change.

Nonetheless, you can structure how and when information about a dead character is revealed, so that the reader's impression of the character changes and deepens over time.

And of course, fantasy genres sometimes have access to additional tropes: magic, time travel, ghosts, etc.

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