I woke up this morning and my brain was full of people. Not even all my own people, which would make sense since I’m in the middle of writing a theft and a murder. No, mostly my mind is filled with other people’s people, and it’s feeling a bit crowded.
There’s the character from a book I read a while back who I really liked but disappointed me badly. He was a young man who for several reasons had nothing much to do besides hang out and train at his local dojo, and thus grew up to be a very skilled martial artist. His story in the book was one of trying to find a real place for himself, a path besides just hanging out and now teaching classes in his master’s school. By the end of the book, while he does find a path that fits nicely with both his skills and his lack of patience with bullies, he winds up meekly following along with whatever his partner decides, flat out saying ‘he tells me what to do and I do it.’ For a character that started out fiery and passionate, it was a serious letdown, and it’s bothering me like it was a close friend in a bad relationship.
Then there are the characters who are abrasive and awful. I read a book recently that I really, thoroughly enjoyed, and went on to grab another of the author’s books set in the same universe. Within three pages, however, the main character showed off her violent anger problem and her complete refusal to take responsibility for said issues. Then over the next chapter or so, it was made clear that her family was aiding and abetting with the excuses. “You’ll find a job that won’t fire you, I’m sure!” and “Just keep trying, someone will see you for the gem you are!” are not appropriate responses to “I got fired again for assaulting a customer. Again.” And it’s definitely not a trait that should be rewarded with jobs, adventures, and powerful friends.
And then, of course, lurking in the corners are my own characters. The clever one that I can’t seem to write out of a hole. The persistent one who is feeling like giving up. The annoying, bubbly one who is sliding into seriousness and, well, not despair. That’s a bit melodramatic, but definitely a melancholic mood..
Sigh. It’s frustrating that the only people in my head lately are the ones that frustrate, irritate, or disappoint me. I suppose it’s human nature— the bad sticks so much more easily than the good, after all. So I’m going to go back and sit down with a few books full of characters I know I like (I strongly recommend The Wood Wife by Terri Windling) and hang out with a cup of coffee and some old friends.
What’s your favorite character? Who should I meet?