Monday, August 19, 2013

Don't tell me that character isn't real

It seems there's been a lot of chatter in the blog world about girls. Not too long ago, the lovely Zoe Marriott wrote a post called Real Girls, Fake Girls, Everybody Hates Girls.Then there was the post written by Sophia McDougall called I hate Strong Female Characters, which I'll admit I didn't read in it's entirety, but I especially like the last five or so lines. Veronica Roth, author of my beloved "Divergent," answers the fan question, "Does a YA female protagonist have to be strong?" So this started me thinking.

Then, I read a review about "The 5th Wave" that finally helped me formulate my thoughts. A Goodreads user refers to the novel as "bastardized sci-fi for the Twilight crowd...[with a] cringe worthy young adult 'romance' (which [he] never would have expected from a male author...)." In one sentence, this reviewer refers to MC Cassie as melodramatic, whining, clueless, and naive. 

I'm trying to work my way through this one. First, I didn't find Cassie melodramatic, whining, clueless, or naive. Second, so what if she were? You can't tell me you've never met someone who owned these adjectives? Just because you don't like a character doesn't mean she isn't real.

Granted, I'm unpublished. I don't have an MFA or any other fancy writing-related degree, so I'm really no professional, but I do hate it when people comment on characters in novels and say those characters aren't real. Let's get this straight: there are all types of people out there.

I am a high school teacher. I have taught hundreds of students. So when I say, there are all types of people out there, I mean there are all types of people out there. I'm qualified to say that. Authors, many of us base our characters on people we know or have met.

Which is why I get a little perturbed when people refer to other characters as whining, clueless, naive, melodramatic, fake, stilted, or any other adjective, and they do so in a negative way. Because, hello, there are all types of people out there.

Just because you have never met someone who sings everything, doesn't mean that person isn't out there.* Just because you have never met someone who carefully places her prepositions within her sentences, doesn't mean she isn't out there. Just because you have never met someone who pulls his hair out when he's nervous, doesn't mean he isn't out there.

It's okay if you don't connect with a character, because, let's face it, we don't connect with everyone out there. But please, don't ever tell me a character isn't real. There are a lot of real people out there. And those real people do a lot of strange things. Maybe the character isn't your typical teenage girl. But really, did you pick up that book because you wanted to read the same characters you always read?

*For the record, my second year teaching, I had a student who sang EVERYTHING. From "May I please go to the bathroom? I really need to pee," to "Subtract x from both sides, then divide," she sang it. All. Year. Long.

My Question for you:
I know there are times when you don't connect with a character. What are they?