Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rogues, wusses, and humanity

Sometimes, you come across characters in stories that give you mixed reactions: you love parts of them and other parts make you crazy.  (People are like this, too, as I'm sure you've noticed.)


There's a character in that baseball show I've been stuck on.  He's pathetic in both the traditional and modern sense of the word.  Sometimes, he makes you so irritated you just want to smack him (even if you come from a family where physical violence is not natural at all).  Other times, he just makes you want to cry and hug him.  Sometimes, you want to do both at the same time. 

In a lot of ways, there are perfectly good reasons for him to be neurotic, and these reasons are explained from the beginning so you can't just hate him, but whenever you try to think of how to "fix" him, it frustrates you more.  When people are this damaged, a band-aid just isn't enough to instantly make things better.  People change slowly, and this show respects that, but it doesn't make it any easier to not want to smack him upside the head metaphorically.


Another character that's pretty popular in stories is that roguish character.  In a series I'm reading right now, there's this sort of weary/wise character who's also something of a reknowened skirt-chaser, and the alternating of wisdom and lechery sometimes jars me. 

I'll think, "Man, he'd be such a great character if he'd quit with the lusty obnoxiousness."  Then I'll remember that he's led a life of violence and is pretty sure he'll die young.  It still bugs me, but I can understand how fatalism can lead to acting like you take everything lightly because you know you can't hold onto it even if you want to, so why waste the energy?  I can't write him off as a character.  It's like he's given blood for that wisdom, and you can tell he has, and you wish he'd be a little more serious, but he's sort of earned some goof-off moments.  I'm pretty sure he isn't going to make it to the end of the series, and I will cry when he dies, crude jokes and all.


I'll catch myself thinking, "This character would be perfect if he wasn't like this!"  Then I remember that most people think "perfect" people are boring, especially in fiction.  It is our flaws and bad decisions that make for better plots.  I've got to remember this, so I can avoid the pitfall of trying to make my characters too "perfect."  I'd rather make them more human.

Any characters that make you want to alternately hit them and cheer them on?  Any really great flawed, realistic, human characters you've come across that you want me (and others) to meet?  Do introduce us, please.

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