They are mostly male.
The stories mostly feature one character, who will stand out for his/her individuality. Marshall seems to celebrate their uniqueness (Neddy - Prince Valiant), passion (Mr Van Gogh) or courage. They have soul, which consists of sympathy for other people, a warm, heartfelt wonder at the natural world and a sense of artistic beauty. Some characters like Souness (Mr Van Gogh) (soul-less or sour-ness) mock others but have no individuality of their own. Marshall says that he will create his characters before he chooses their names.
'They are stories about country school-masters, farmers, businessmen, rugby players, vicars, soldiers, shearers, stock agents, poets, boys growing up and men growing old. The variety is impressive as is the deftness with which the characters are brought to life.'
Noel O'Hare: 'Marshall's stories ironically often feature small-town characters who are in some way 'different': these 'oddities' are always ruthlessly ostracised and repressed.'
Marshall in interview with Frank Corbett: 'I'm constantly attracted to individuals who refuse to conform. I'm interested in them and what makes them that way.'
Many are stories of men alone, often individuals with a personal vision, 'the searing blue spark of the imagination', people who are 'worth a dozen of the rest of us.' Marshall says he tends to be interested in people who do not conform, 'who resist the very powerful tendencies in our society to give them prepackaged, predetermined goals and objectives. 'He champions anyone who wants to retain their individuality in a conformist society - 'not necessarily by putting things in their ears and colouring their hair, but by establishing a lifestyle that expressed this identity. It is not easy to reach the compromise of succeeding in the hum-drum while retaining those special things. You must strike a balance between the inward and the outward life.'