Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHalloween is over, but here at my house we’re still working off our Snickers high while images of this year’s vivid costumes linger. (My son went as an evil jester, and not even I would want to meet up with anyone wearing that thing on a non-Halloween eve.)

Created characters can be whatever we want them to be: handsome, ugly, talented, deprived, good or evil. But are movie characters inherently more likely to be scary than characters we can only imagine in our mind’s eye? Guardian Unlimited has some musings on the subject here:

While film can body forth its frightening characters in alarmingly tangible ways – who didn’t flinch at the utter psychopathic conviction of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas – books just don’t operate in the same way.

Characters are embedded in the weave of a text in a way they aren’t in cinema, and while books can be terrifying, one doesn’t really get all jumpy about individual characters after the age of about 10. I know a lot of adults get all sappy about Harry Potter, but really, who has nightmares about Voldemort?

What do you think? Can we create frightful characters in our pages–or are we always going to take a second seat to cinematographers?

ABE Books has taken it upon themselves to unmask the “scariest characters in literature.” This, from their site:

Big Brother from George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 has been voted the scariest character in literature in a worldwide poll conducted by AbeBooks.

With the increased use of closed circuit TV, phone tapping, GPS tracking from space and online monitoring, booklovers clearly believe Big Brother is more threatening than ever. Published in 1949, Orwell’s dystopian nightmare mirrored the totalitarianism of Hitler and Stalin. Big Brother is rated as scarier than classic evil creations like Bill Sykes, the vicious Victorian thug created by Charles Dickens, and Hannibal the Cannibal from the modern publishing era.

The 10 scariest characters in literature according to visitors to AbeBooks:

1. Big Brother from 1984 by George Orwell
2. Hannibal Lecter from the novels by Thomas Harris
3. Pennywise the clown from It by Stephen King
4. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over a Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
5. Count Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel
6. Annie Wilkes from Misery by Stephen King
7. The demon from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
8. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
9. Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
10. Voldemort from the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling

So how about you? How do movie characters and book characters stack up when you consider the fear factor? What characters have you found most frightful and what made them that way?

Write on, all!

Photo credit: Flickr’s BlueFace


About Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh co-founded Writer Unboxed in 2006. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named a Best Book of 2014 by Library Journal and BookRiot. Her debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, sold to Random House in a two-book deal in 2008, was named one of January Magazine’s Best Books, and was a Target Breakout Book. She's never been published with a lit magazine, but LOST's Carlton Cuse liked her Twitter haiku best and that made her pretty happy.