What is a Character?

Rick Hoffman plays junior partner Louis Litt at Pearson Hardman Law Firm in New York City, in the TV series Suits.

Rick Hoffman does a great job of acting, but Lewis Litt is a brilliant supportive fictional character.

Lewis is an overbearing supervisor to the first year lawyers. They grumble and whine that their job is too hard and they are not being treated fairly. In a fit of anger, he shames them by doing all their work (twelve people) in one night, without errors. They are stunned.

And so are we. We thought he was lazy and overbearing, but in truth, he was teaching his people how to become great lawyers.

Lewis is sensitive, a lover of ballet. When he meets his ballet hero, he’s like a puppy with his tongue hanging out and his tail wagging with delight. When he learns the one he most respects is embezzling the ballet, Lewis takes him down like a mother grizzly protecting her cub.

Lewis is insecure and underhanded. When caught, he tucks his tail between his legs and bows his head like the coward he is. But when he is absolutely passive that he is right, Lewis stands tall, will not back down, or be bullied.

Harvey Specter one of the two main characters in the series, and is Lewis’ thorn in the flesh. Lewis hates that he stands in Harvey’s shadow.

Even thought they don’t get along, Harvey knows Lewis’ value.

When Harvey needs a financial genius to save his client from ruin, he goes to Lewis and for one moment they are comrades. But Lewis misreads a chance meeting between Harvey and the client, and assumes Harvey is taking all the credit. Their newfound relationship crumbles.

Most of the time we see Lewis as someone we love to hate then we get a glimmer of a great guy and just when we think we could really like him, and maybe even trust him, he does something to remind us what a louse he really is.

So what is a fictional character?

It’s someone who is a complete individual who cannot be replaced by another fictional character. This person must fit in just right into the roll he or she are playing.

This person changes the course of the plot vs someone who it tossed about by the plot.

We all have moments when we shine and when we don’t. Characters are the same.

Good guys have faults – that little bit of weakness that causes the plot to tumble down around them. But in the end, it is their strength of character that proves them the hero.

Bad guys, the annoying and the evil, are stronger characters if they are not just bad, annoying or evil. They become more interesting when they reveal their better side, when they do something noble, show tenderness, or save the hero, only to stab the hero in the back, accidentally puts the hero’s life in jeopardy, or kill the hero, later in the story.

Characters like Lewis enrich the storyline.

He’s a three dimensional character. He has layers and levels of personality. His emotions fly up and down depending on his mood and the situation of the scene.

His fictional character and his personality traits affect the plot.

He is an individual, not interchangeable with anyone else.

The other characters in Suits also have layers, but their pendulum doesn’t swing as far to the right and left as Lewis’ does.

A character like Lewis usually is not the hero in a story. He’s too insecure and whiny, but he makes for a great supporting character. He’s like that annoying itch you can’t reach. He often causes trouble for the hero. But since they are on the same team, occasionally he saves the hero from certain failure.

Lewis helps make Suits shine. The series would not be the same without him.

Do you have a favorite supporting character? Who is he or she?