Friday, September 23, 2011

How Appealing Are Your Characters?

When I first ran across the name, Lisbeth Salander, on a blog, I wrongfully assumed it was the name of a romance writer. The woman who wrote the article gushed on about Lisbeth, although she was rather vague about what made her like her so much.

Then my daughter gave me a thick novel by a Norwegian author named Stieg Larsson. Six hundred plus pages seemed rather excessive for a suspense novel, but at her urging, I plunged in. I loved the story Larsson had created, and was quickly captivated by Lisbeth.

We authors have a tendency to push physical attributes to the limit in our novels. Our women are often drop-dead gorgeous. They have endless legs, bushels of hair, teeth like ivory, and don’t get me started on the eyes. Lisbeth has none of these attributes. Instead, this twenty-four-old young woman has the frail body of an adolescent, no breasts, lank hair, and a leave-me-alone antisocial attitude. So what, you are wondering, is her appeal.

Lisbeth is a high school dropout because she was so bored in class that she had no desire to succeed. No one suspects that she has a genius level intelligence and also a photographic memory. But it is not her intelligence that makes her so appealing. Her intelligence is her weapon against an ever-encroaching society that makes unreasonable demands on all of us to conform and submit. Lisbeth knows how to resist the aggression that hovers just under the surface of established authority. To put it another way, Lisbeth does what the rest of us would like to do if we had the guts and opportunity to hit back.

Not since Scarlett O’Hara has there been a character so capable of captivating our attention. Grab a copy of The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo, and you will soon be punching your fist in the air as Lisbeth scores point after point against those who seek to dominate and torment her. You are going to love Lisbeth.

Oh, and another thing. Did I tell you that this frail creature is undeniably sexy?


Christy Tillery French said...

Joe, I, too, found this character so appealing. She's emotionally damaged and has flaws, but that is what makes her the person she is - intelligent and fiercely independent and one who is not afraid to stand up for herself. Great book, great character.

The Belle in Blue said...

I agree about Lisbeth, but not about the book overall. Way too much backstory in the beginning that could have been omitted because it's recounted again later on. The plot itself was good, but you had to dig to find it. I wanted a lot more about Lisbeth, but I guess he did that on purpose so we'd read the next two books. :/

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I agree that there's way too much backstory in the beginning. Not all the professional writing. But I slogged on until it got interesting. Lisbeth is a very interesting and unique character. Have you read the other two novels yet in the series?