What Makes a Memorable Character
A character who controls the plot.
They can be protagonists, antagonists, primary, or secondary characters. A memorable character isn’t swept up in the story, but rather throws wrenches to distort the flow, provides insight, and makes decisions and then acts on those decisions.
When I consider my own work, my most popular characters are Fanzam, Zeeth, and Zea. Fanzam and Zeeth are the primary protagonists while Zea is a neutral character.
What do all of them have in common? Agency and control of the plot.
Zea isn’t a memorable character because of her personality, combat abilities, or intelligence—these characteristics add to her presence. Instead, she is memorable because she bends the plot and drives it forward, much to the chagrin of both the main protagonist and antagonist.
I implore other writers to consider the following: Who influences your plot? Are your characters merely coasting, driven by the story, or are they in control?
And to readers: I could make a list of characters who coast and those throw wrenches, but I’m sure you already have some in mind. And if not, simply ask yourself who is your favorite character, and why? Could you replace your favorite character with a sock puppet and have the plot remain the same? One would hope not.
Whether you’re a writer or a reader, characters who control the plot are more memorable than those who are controlled by the the plot, and the key is to recognize the difference.