Saturday, July 19, 2008

When Nice Characters Give You the HeebieJeebies...

Live Journal had a writer's prompt a couple of days ago that I finally got around to writing on. The question was:

Who is your favorite fictional character? Why do you love them? What fictional character bugs you?

Thinking about your personal reaction to a character in a book you're reading or a show you're watching can be very revealing - both those you love and those you can't stand.

As with all writing prompts I try to write the first thing that comes to mind, before I try to be too clever or manipulate my own responses. The answer to the character I love was no surprise, though the more I dug at the reasons why, the more I realized just why she was at the top of my list.

The character that bugged me WAS a surprise. I couldn't think of any immediately, except for Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice but I realized that was me trying too hard. I really didn't feel that strongly about him. When I did hit upon a character I didn't like, there was no doubt. This character has given me the heebiejeebies since I was a kid and it's not someone a lot of people are likely to put down. In fact this character is supposed to be a good, nice and well-loved character. Funny thing is my feelings about her are still as strong today!

We've all come across wooden heroes and heroines while the villain of the story is delightfully complex. We all worry our own hero characters will suffer from the same puppet-master syndrome and be out-shined by our baddies. We work on giving the good guys flaws while we make sure our villains have redeeming qualities to keep our readers guessing and to keep the struggle between the two believable. But it's not often we stop to think: is my good character so 'good' they're verging on creepy?

It's the ones that make you not want to pick up that book or watch that show again that can teach you something - and it's not always the bad guys. I learned a few things about myself doing this exercise and I'll be even more aware of these sorts of issues when I next delve into my writing. I want to make sure the characters I intend to be likeable ARE in fact likeable and those that aren't are still those you want to love-to-hate. The last thing I want is for my book to be the one you never want to pick up again!

If you're curious about my choices (which are NOT shown in the pictures here), go check out my post on Live Journal HERE.

NOTE: To read the article about why Annie Liebovitz is dressing people up like Disney characters click HERE to read the article and see more photos (including behind-the-scenes) or on the images above for yet more Liebovitz-does-Disney-portraits. And yes, I find quite a few of them rather creepy.

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