Friday, May 8, 2015

Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Hercule Poirot, and Harry Potter

The above names are fictional. Make-believe people known the world over. How does a branded character come about? They must be difficult to create because there are few of them. Strong characters, however, are not rare. Think of Elizabeth Bennet, Tom Sawyer, Captain Ahab, Rhett Butler, or Hannibal Lecter to name a few. But for the most part, these were one-offs, while a branded character returns time and again, frequently leaping from the printed page to the screen and stage.

A branded character can be literary, but more often he or she would be
more properly defined as well-crafted. After all, the prime attribute of a branded character is renown … and nothing common can be literary. (At least, that's the common wisdom, but some might disagree, like Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Austen, or Twain.)

There’s another characteristic of branded characters: they are enormously lucrative. The inventors of Holmes, Bond, Poirot, and Potter didn’t want for material things. I’m hoping that one day Mr. Dancy will be my meal ticket, but right now there’s another character hogging the limelight. Care to guess who’s today’s strongest branded character? Forbes chewed on the numbers and the winner is … Jack Reacher. It appears Lee Child has the strongest reader loyalty of any bestselling author.

I like Lee Child books, but personally prefer Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger. You can’t argue with Child’s 70 million in sales. David Vinjamuri in Forbes writes, “But what’s most interesting about Lee Child’s creation is not the size of the brand but its strength. Child doesn’t have the largest following among bestselling authors: just over a third of book shoppers are aware of him versus the more than 95% who know John Grisham and the 99% aware of Stephen King, both of whom have sold more books. But while just under a quarter of Grisham and King’s readers count either man as their favorite author nearly a third of Reacher readers mark Child as their favorite.”

If you want to invent a branded character, I suggest reading the article. Vinjamuri provides some insight. 

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