From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Characters: Self-Sacrifice and the Deeply Disturbed

Today I want to talk about two types of characters that never fail to affect me. When I meet them in a book or on screen, I think about them for days or years afterwards. They become prototypes for characters I try to create in my own writing.

The first is the self-sacrificing character. The ones who sacrifice something hugely important to themselves for the sake and love of someone else. Jean Valjean sacrifices his own safety to save Marius, which is actually a double sacrifice because keeping Marius alive means he is also giving up Cozette. Mr. Darcy sacrifices incredible amounts of time, effort and money to save Lydia for Elizabeth's sake. Niles Crane sacrifices seven seasons of happiness to keep Daphne comfortable and keep things on her time table. (Ok, this last one could maybe be considered a stretch, but Niles is one of the best characters ever and it works for me).

What are your favorite self-sacrificing characters and what do they sacrifice? Do you have real-life examples of self-sacrificing people that you know that could maybe be used as creative fodder? I actually have a directly creative reason for asking about this, because getting some self-sacrifice ideas would help me get over the last big plot hole of my current WIP. So ideas would be great :)

The second are the deeply disturbed characters who have a plethora of things wrong with them, nearly everything about them except for the love of someone else. I think I have less company in adoring these kinds of characters then I do with the self-sacrificing ones, because they often come off as mere creepers. But for some reason I think these characters are fascinating. Severus Snape is a rude, bitter dude, but when we find out about his love for Lilly our opinion of him changes. (Makes him one of the best HP characters, if you're me). Claude Frollo is a total nut job, including in his love for Esmerelda, but it is this love that makes him seem, at least to me, pitiable and human. Ben Linus is a psychotic, manipulative murderer, but he becomes much more complex, relatable, even admirable in his love for his adopted daughter Alex, his childhood crush, even in his admittedly creepy love for Juliette. Do you like these kinds of characters as much as I do? Who are some of your favorite?

These are some of the types of characters I adore reading and writing about. Do you have favorite character types? What makes them intriguing to you?

Anyway, happy writing!
Sarah Allen


  1. My mother is a self-sacrificer. When we were kids she let us run around with holes in our clothes so she could use the money to send food to our family in Mexico and bail friends and family out of jail.

    This info probably won't help you with your holes but it's what came to mind. Good luck!

  2. The only self-sacrificing character that comes to mind for me, probably because I just read the book, is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy...the way she takes her sister's place to protect her, then the alliances she forms to keep others safe, even when it means putting herself in possible danger. I'm going to have to think and see if I can come up with any others because I know I can do better than that! lol

    As for the other type, I adore Snape. He's a character you love to hate and then when you find out that he was trying to protect Harry all along and that he loved Lilly right up until his death, it completely changes your perspective. I suppose Harry could be considered a self-sacrificing character in a way, the way his loyalty to his friends often leads him straight into danger that he insists on facing head-on. I'm sure that's of no use or help to you, but just my thoughts! lol

  3. There's currently a lot of self-sacrificing going on in Japan. The fifty workers who stayed behind to keep the reactors cool are possibly making the ultimate sacrifice.

  4. Well, Snape is really a cool character!! Rowling did cool job there!!!

    If you are looking for someone, who is self-sacrificing for sake of love of someone, then, I have some idea and we can discuss about it!!

    with warm regards

  5. If you want to talk at length about sacrificing characters, I can. But, I'd like to point you to the joys of the BBC series, Doctor Who. The lead character, The Doctor, is both a deeply disturbed character who is both self-sacrificing and inspires others to sacrifice.

    I could go on ad nauseum about the character, but if you have the chance, check out on Netflix (or wherever you get DVDs and Instant Viewing from) and start with Season 1 of the new stuff.


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