Valya Dudycz Lupescu

Writer, fueled by coffee

A Question of Character


I’m working on a project that has me thinking about characterization, and I was pondering what makes a character unforgettable?

So I ask you, what are the most memorable characters you have encountered in fiction–good or bad, classic or contemporary, adult books or children’s. What characters have remained with you to this day and why?

Author: Valya

Valya Dudycz Lupescu is the author of THE SILENCE OF TREES and STICKS & BONES, as well as the founding editor of CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character. Born and raised in Chicago, Valya received her degree in English at DePaul University and her MFA in Writing as part of the inaugural class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Since receiving her MFA, Valya has worked as a college professor, obituary writer, content manager, internal communications specialist, co-producer of an independent feature film, and Goth cocktail waitress.


  1. For me it’s characters that have a larger-than-life aspect about them – an almost mythical quality of sorts. Everyone who’s ever seen Star Wars still remembers that moment where Darth Vader first appears out of the smoke and fire of a battle, a black stain in the whiteness of the ship’s interior. It’s one of the greatest entrances ever for one of the greatest characters ever. What makes Darth Vader so great? He’s an evil, tortured soul, and the focus of the entire 6-movie series (the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker). His overriding sense of Justice – what is the Right Way Things Ought To Be Done – is what drives him ever onward, and that makes him by far more memorable than any other character in the Star Wars pantheon. I use that because it’s the first thing that came to mind.

    As an entirely different example, I recall with great fondness the Danny Dunn and Alvin Fernald series of children’s books. Both the main characters have stuck with me because of their indomitable will and desire to solve problems no matter what.

    I’d say if you can boil a character down to a single-sentence definition the same way you can boil a project down to a single-sentence log line, you’ve found a character that can be unforgettable.

    Darth Vader: A once-great hero who has turned to follow a dark path yet still seeks redemption.

    Alvin Fernald: A young inventor who will meet any challenge head-on.

    What do you think?


  2. Ian, I actually really like that as an exercise, to boil a character down to a single sentence. Although I wonder if it can be done for all great characters? This would be fun to do in a creative writing class or workshop, and also a good test to put to our own writing. Hmmmm…very interesting.

    I agree about the mythic quality, as if a great character echoes an archetype but also enriches it.

    As always, thanks for your contribution to this discussion. Your writing always gives me pause for thought.

  3. I am enamored by characters that can evoke emotion from me or I can relate to perosnally. It could be a female character that has overcome adversity, suspect or tradedy. A character like Griet in the Girl With A Pearl Earring. She was young and quiet yet strong-minded but I was always wanting for her to conquer. Sometimes it is all in the reveal of a character that I find memorable. If a character is revealed too soon then the passion for turning pages becomes less for me. However, the opposite is true as well. If I’m 3 chapters in and find no connection to the characters then I go no further. So when I read a book that I have connectd to and has engaged me I remember it, pass it on, and read it again later.
    What makes that connection? I don’t think it matters if your character is a little girl, a grown man, a chicken, a dog, or blade of grass…how will they evoke human emotion?
    Oliver Twist- Hungry, alone and in danger. What parent wouldn’t connect to that little boy?
    Chicken Little-Was trying to do good and made a mess of things.
    One is Charles Dickens and the other is Rick Walton both are classics because both evoke emotion that we can relate to.

  4. Thanks, Donna. These are great characters! Nice to see you here.

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