Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Cynical Reader or Unconvincing Character?

Allow me, if I may, to put on my reader-hat for a moment. See, there's this thing that happens sometimes when I'm reading, and I'm not sure if it's me or the book.

"Sorry, book, it's not you. It's me." Ugh. Good thing books can't throw their readers across the room.

It's a little hard to describe. I'm reading along, enjoying the story well enough, even liking the side characters, but there's something about the protagonist.

I don't believe her.

(Yes, it pretty much always happens to be a female protagonist. Maybe that's more for me to ponder.)

Not like I think she's lying, not directly. But what she's trying to be or supposed to be doesn't feel real. Not to me. And that's where I'm not sure if it's me or her (or rather, her author).

The verdict might vary by book. Sometimes it might really be me and my cynical side getting in the way. Maybe that keeps me from being open to certain traits coinciding. That wouldn't surprise me.

Sometimes, though, I think it might be a weakness in how the character's written. Here's a fairly common manifestation: Female MC is stubborn and insists on being self-reliant. Hates getting help from anyone.

That's all well and good, and plenty of YA heroines these days fit that description. It doesn't always fly believably, though, and I think sometimes it's because the author shoehorns those traits into the character. The author wants a character like that, because who doesn't love an independent female who isn't afraid to butt heads with other people?

Wanting that kind of character and creating one are two different things. It can't be pasted on top of everything else the character is. Pasting is for flat objects. Who the character is needs to be pervasive, leaking through in moments that seemingly have nothing to do with that aspect of them.

With my writer-hat back on, how does one accomplish that?

That's a post for another day. If you have ideas, please share.

1 comment:

Rick Pieters said...

I like this:

Who the character is needs to be pervasive, leaking through in moments that seemingly have nothing to do with that aspect of them.

I don't know if I've ever accomplished that, but I do think that when we develop a character, it should be fully enough to show those aspects in all their actions/reactions/interaction.

How to make sure we do that? I await the answers.