On Anchor Characters

In my last post I mentioned anchor characters, but then I realized it was a thing I kind of made up, and I hadn’t really rambled on about it yet. Such a wasted opportunity. I am so prepared to remedy that.

So what is an anchor character? Well, if you’re like me and have a snow-pea sized attention span, an anchor character is any character that anchors you to the story. For me it’s usually an anti-hero, a flawed and funny protagonist, or a romantic antagonist. Mystery is the all-important element, I’ve found. The right amount of mystery drives me crazy with curiosity, and I’ll read through any amount of descriptive world-building or random essay chapters (ahem, Victor Hugo) just to learn more about one person. I’ve tried to explain to those who don’t understand that what Lord of the Rings lacked for me was an anchor character. I might have read it otherwise. I might have even loved it. As it was, I couldn’t even get halfway through.

My first anchor character was so precious to me, I actually locked him in a hope chest to keep him safe. When we’re children, we’re pretty sure losing whatever our favorite thing is means we will never ever see it again. And I was most afraid of losing a tall, whimsical man called Uncle Morris. Uncle Morris was a secondary character in Silvia Cassedy’s Behind the Attic Wall, which was the favorite book of my childhood self. If you asked me what I loved about that book, even in those days, my answer would have been the characters. All of them. But the cake-taker, without a doubt, was Uncle Morris.

After Uncle Morris, I fell in love with characters like Gaston Leroux’s poor phantom Erik (me and a billion other girls, right?), Captain James Hook (he’s so damned prim), The White Witch (anyone who doesn’t love her is just wrong), Severus Snape (best dark horse I ever rooted for), and Victor Hugo’s tortured priest Dom Claude Frollo (more on that later). Most of characters I love are antagonists (because of the mystery, y’all). And I love them still.

When writing, of course, my favorite character has to shift for every scene. If I didn’t adore something about each of them, I wouldn’t be able to put them to paper. But as a reader, I usually find my anchor, and I am loyal to the bitter end.

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