Friday, July 8, 2011

I'm Pulling From The Archives Again...

So I keep sifting through my older posts, you know... the ones from when I had 5 followers. Those posts. I started off with some pretty good intentions and then just let anything fly from my fingertips. So I just wanted to post this one again, because I feel it is still completely relevant. Hope you enjoy it!

I sort of like putting my characters through some tough times. I'm even trying to decide how to kill one off.

Makes me feel like a bad girl.

My sister in law, Cheri, asked why do we like to read about so much conflict? I just joined a book club and one of the ladies there didn't like the opening chapter of the book we had just read (Smoke Jumper) and asked if he, the author, had to do that for publication.

Well, my take on it is this... We, as human beings, have so much going on in our daily lives, that even if we picked up a book that reminded us of our own life, we'd probably keep reading.


Because it is happening to someone else. We're morbid beings. See a car crash, you can't take your eyes off of it. Yet if you are in one yourself, you do everything possible to repress the memory, push it out of your mind. It does creep up and bite you in the arse every so often, but in odd ways. You brake where normally you would have passed the slow car in front of you or you sit for a two full minutes looking in all directions before carefully pulling out where before you would just gun it.

So, if you are willing to sit back and follow the lives of others simply because you are grateful it isn't happening to you, why are some authors too easy on their characters?

Take "Smoke Jumper" for example. Don't know how many of you have read it, but one of the main characters gets the raw end of the deal most of the time. Yet the author created such a cushy life for him. He's from a rich family, he's well educated, a musician. If you have read the book, you know that in real life, it would seem far-fetched.

Even J.K. Rowling gave Harry lots of money to make up for his hellish life. But that's different, it was an inheritance and it was only ever mentioned a few times.

If you are going to put your characters through hell and back, you might think about giving them some bright spots, some high points in their lives. People, in all reality, can't deal with stress and drama twenty four seven, so why would you ever think of doing that to your characters?

To answer my earlier question, authors are sometimes too easy on their characters because they are such an extension of themselves. Jane Austen never married, neither did her sister. Yet all of her characters found love and happiness ever after.

I've used bits and pieces of myself in all of my characters. Each one has a distinguishing quality of myself in one way or another. If you really, truly know me, you'd recognize it as soon as you began reading.

In my first book, Kayta loses her memory after a horrific episode in her life. Granted she's an all out, gutsy warrior and knows how to keep her cool in battle, but the hell I put her through... Who wouldn't want to repress that? And a good sound thunk on the ol' noggin certainly helped. By doing this, though, I've placed into Kayta how I feel about having very little recollection of my childhood. What sort of thing could have happened to me that I would repress what was supposed to be one of the happiest periods of my life?

There's lots of theories. I blame the ozone layer.

But that is just one example. So, for the most part, I really like to smash and bash my characters, but I do try to give them hope. Even the darkest hours of our own lives have glimmers of hope. I bring them love, I give them lots of cash... it all works out, right?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent points, Mel! Everybody loves a train wreck...

Mel Chesley said...

They seem to, don't they? And Thanks Alex. ;)

Jamie Gibbs said...

The bright points are sometimes what make the dark points even darker, and vice versa. Having that balance makes for great reading. I don't want a story where everything is roses and skipping in the sunshine; nor do I want a 400 page depression rigged train to hopelessville.

I also agree that as humans we're all guilty of Schadenfreude; finding some pleasure in the misery of others.

Mel Chesley said...

I agree, Jamie. I don't want people bawling through the entire book. There has to be some bright spots. And yeah... whether people admit to it or not, they do find a glimmer of pleasure in the misery of others... some people just bubble over with that pleasure... freaky.