The characters in best sellers are what make them cult classics
Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight have all become national best sellers and created a cult following over the past couple of years. Not only have these novels been adapted to the big screen but they have expanded due to community builders.
English Prof. Blackwood explains that community builders “[arise] on the ground, through word-of-mouth and, especially here in NYC, eye-on-subway– checking out what other people are reading, exchanging that nod with the stranger across the car who is also reading.” It can also be as she described “publishers and Hollywood studios pushing books onto people.” Each novel that has become popular over the past couple years has had 5 major qualities that made it into a modern day classics. The fundamental qualities are memorable/flawed characters, great evil to fight, detailed worlds, very high stakes and romance.
The Harry Potter series has to be the prime example of a cast of memorable but flawed characters. From Hermione, Ron, to Harry Potter himself, these characters have become forever etched in the minds of the readers.
These characters are relatable in the fact that they make mistakes and have certain qualities that readers can see in themselves or in friends. Characters are given depth with their imperfections, and that is what makes them realistic. Each character in these modern day classics are going through a personal battle at some point that gives them room to grow by the end of the book or series. It’s this growth that has readers invested in their journey through diversity and obstacles. This investment keeps readers going through series, and following religiously.
In each novel there is a great evil to fight, which becomes one of the main goals to accomplish by the ending. This creates the excitement needed for to keep readers attention and gives the novel a needed “bad guy”. Without a villain there is no one for the protagonist to be pitted against and a way for them to test their skills. Fans love to root for the “hero” in the story and see them ultimately defeat the “master of all evil”. That satisfaction is one of the best feelings at the completion of a book. Marina, a graduate nursing student, adds “reading about a character overcoming their challenges, empowers and motivates the reader to draw from that example and apply it to their own life”. This can be seen in the Hunger Games where the Katniss is battling against the oppression by the Capitol, and becomes a symbol of rebellion throughout her story.
The detailed world that these author’s create are filled with imagination and creativity. It becomes something real to readers, and is unlike anything they have heard before. The world that J.K. Rowling described countless times in her series was beyond anyone’s imagination. It became a place to escape to while reading, and now it is actually a theme park filled with the details from the book. There are countless castles, talking portraits, moving staircases, and even a platform 9.. Even Stephanie Meyers had readers believing there was more to the world than just humans, that there was a whole supernatural world that was hidden in plain sight.
In each novel mentioned above, each protagonist was faced with very high stakes if they failed in their battle against evil. If Harry Potter couldn’t defeat Lord Voldemort, then freedom for the witches, wizards, and muggles would cease to exist. In the Hunger Games it was much more drastic; Katniss knew if she didn’t win she was going to die. With these high stakes came the suspense that had every reader at the edge of their seat waiting on the next big event to happen. The twists and turns are what make the books interesting and exciting to read. Christopher Charles, freshman, believes that “if a reader connects with a character fighting against high stakes it gives them hope”.
Another trend observed in the national best sellers is that there is always some sort of romance occurring amongst characters. This usually becomes center stage in the book, especially if there is a competition for someone’s affection. Sometimes the love is developed across the series giving the relationship more meaning and depth. It pulls on the heartstrings of its loyal readers. This can be seen from Twilight’s famous Team Edward and Team Jacob fights.
Bestselling books are more than just fate or luck; these authors have incorporated elements that absorb readers into the worlds that they have created. Their characters are real people, with real problems, that have to overcome them in such a short time. These page turners know how to develop a loyal fan base that goes beyond the novels.
Prof. Blackwood explains that best sellers need to have “Fearlessness, intimacy, and plot and deep understanding and respect of how genre and literary convention work coupled with divergence from genre rules.” Authors like these are talented, unique, and insightful individuals that have created some of this decade’s best literature.