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.


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

  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.