Lu Xiaofeng has four eyebrows. He is known throughout the land as the man with four eyebrows. When people hear his name, they either shrink in fear or rush to see whether he really has four eyebrows,
That’s how we were introduced to Lu Xiaofeng, the wuxia equivalent of Sherlock Holmes. And this is a good tip on how to make a character memorable: give them special traits that both pique the reader’s interest and make them memorable.
In this post, I will attempt to break down the components that make Lu Xiaofeng so iconic that my dad, at 50 years after reading the novels, still remember who he is. Despite not being a qualified writer, I will try to summarize some characterization tips I got from reading the series.
*this post is done as an assignment that I half-assedly did, so I apologize in advance for the quality
Lu Xiaofeng is the protagonist of the Lu Xiaofeng series, written by the master Gu Long, author of other well-known works such as Juedai Shuangjiao and Xiaoli Feidao (Little Li’s Flying Dagger). He is a flirt and an alcoholic who is well-known for constantly sticking his nose into other people’s business. However, when you get to know him, he’s not as he first appears.
From what I’ve read, there are a few characteristics that make Lu Xiaofeng iconic.
One line of narrative said something along the line of ‘even if his name is Xiaofeng (little phoenix), Lu Xiaofeng is neither little nor is a bird. He is a full-grown man’. Another said ‘if you say one word about Lu Xiaofeng not being a man (as in a gentleman willing to do things for other people), hide in an abandoned shrine on a mountain somewhere and pray to the gods his friends are not out to kill you’, This protagonist may have a name that sounds like a girl, but his character is not what you’d expect for someone called Little Bird. That’s the first part that makes him memorable.
Take-home: a character’s name can be selected to fit the character’s traits. However, since people are given their names since birth and may grow out to be completely opposite of the name, this is one tip to keep in mind when naming your characters.
When talking about Lu Xiaofeng, the nickname ‘Four-Eyebrows’ seem to follow his name like a form of address. He is referred to as the four-eyebrow man a multitude of times throughout the narrative. This is perhaps one of his most iconic traits.
I won’t tell you what his eyebrows look like and why he has four eyebrows; it’s more fun to figure it out yourself.
Take-home: try to find a gimmick for your character. Your character does not have to be strange or unusual to be memorable, but pick out something special about them to present to the readers.
His signature skill
Lu Xiaofeng’s signature skill is holding blades or daggers or any moving objects between his fingers. This signature skill had gotten him out of numerous life-or-death situations. Because we see this skill so many times, it’s something like a trademark that people remember him for.
Take-home: like marketing a brand, making an impression out of a character’s signature trait not only requires making a strong first impression, but repeating that. Don’t give a character too many skills: you can instead have one skill that is applicable to all situations and make that skill memorable.
Part of what makes Lu Xiaofeng memorable are descriptions of him given by his friends. Some of them say nice things, and some say pretty strange things that turn out to be true, and some have very not-so-nice things to say about the man.
Those things would not leave as strong of an impression if the people saying them weren’t so eccentric. Lu Xiaofeng surrounds himself with people who are everything but ordinary. One of his friends can fight despite being blind, one of them is a clean-freak who have never lost a battle, and one of them is literally named Beef Soup and makes the best beef soup. If normal people describe Lu Xiaofeng, you may not think much of how they describe him, but if these weird people did? If they’re that eccentric and they say Lu Xiaofeng is eccentric, now that’s something to consider.
Take-home: the characters surrounding your character are important. Make use of them.
That is all I have to say. Happy writing.
(As a side note, I’ve tried applying Knox’s Decalogue to Lu Xiaofeng’s story, and turns out it actually follows that structure. (except no.5, of course) Interesting.)