Thursday, November 10, 2011

Role models?

I was looking back at some of my short stories and realized that, with short forms, I'm more willing to experiment with unlikable main characters. I guess it's because I view an unlikable character as more tolerable over a 5- to 10-page story than s/he would be over the course of a 200-page novel. And I'm not just thinking of the reader's time; I don't necessarily want to spend a year or two (the time it takes to write and edit a book) living with an unlikable main character!

Which isn't to say all the characters in my novels are likable. Even the ones that I like, the ones who are pretty decent overall, do obnoxious or mean or cowardly things from time to time. I'm not trying to create role models here; I'm trying to make these characters real.

It's an oft-discussed issue in children's and YA literature, the extent to which characters are, or should be, role models. I prefer to let readers sort out the heroes and villains--ideally, to recognize the heroic and villainous parts within every character, and the heroic and villainous parts within us all.

2 comments:

  1. And that is why your characters resonate. They're real. Believable. That's how I felt about Colt in The Secret Year.

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  2. Thanks, Mieke! One of my favorite reader comments about Colt was from a young woman who said she mostly liked him a lot, but a couple of times she wanted to slap him. I.e., he's mostly sympathetic, but a couple of times he really screws up! As we all do from time to time.

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