Photo credit: @lattefarsan on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA
Characters have feelings, just like anyone else. Sometimes those feelings get hurt, and characters get angry, and the interesting part for me is always how they come back from that particular ledge. Often the person or situation they’re angry at is the bad guy or the Great Crisis of the book, and the way our heroes get past their anger is to defeat the bad guy, solve the Crisis, and go home victorious to have cake and fancy drinks and maybe flirt with that cutie over at the corner of the bar. Or something.
But other times— and this is where I get really hung up— our heroes get angry at their friends, family, or love interest, and we all know that they’re going to have to work that out to get through the Great Crisis or else the whole story is a mess of people falling apart and nothing getting fixed. So, often someone will talk to our hero and explain, either logically or not, that they’re wrong for being mad, and the hero sighs ponderously and agrees, either silently or out loud, and then they go and apologize to whoever they were mad at. And the story moves cheerfully along to its grand finale.
Fuck. That. People are allowed to be angry. People are allowed to be hurt when they are wronged, or even think they’ve been wronged, and it’s not their job to apologize for having feelings. This post was inspired by a book I was reading the other day, and yes I’ll admit it was a romance because I love me a happy ending, and no I’m not going to author-shame by naming it.
Our young hero agrees, after a long conversation discussing it, to date their love interest. When the love interest is seen out with another, our hero gets upset and makes a small scene in public before being hauled off by his friend. Now, in the story the whole thing hinged on a misunderstanding of exclusivity, and I can easily see how it could be resolved quickly, but instead of a reconciliation scene where two adults admit faulty assumptions, what I got was a “well we never talked about that, we just said we’re dating, now come on we’re going to do what I want now,” statement and within about 3 short sentences the couple was all over each other. No further discussion was necessary, apparently, and all was forgiven even though the actual problem was barely even addressed let alone solved. And they lived, I assume, happily ever after, but I wouldn’t know because I had to put the damn thing down and walk away. I had no respect left for either of the characters involved. And the love interest showed that they were uninterested in our hero’s emotional health to the point of being actually harmful.
Our young hero had every right to be upset since he was under the impression that they had talked about that, thank you very much, and discounting that fact is dismissive in the extreme. It’s also maybe hurtful in bigger ways since in all honesty humans learn from fiction, and that scene taught that anger and hurt in a relationship should be buried and ignored.
That’s only one example of perfectly justifiable anger being ignored or pushed aside that I’ve come across, but it’s a pretty clear one. I don’t mind anger in a story, because like I said, characters are just like everyone else, and they’re allowed to get mad when the situation calls for it. It’s how they come back from being angry that can be hit or miss for me. I would hope that there would be some sort of acknowledgment that a character’s feelings are acceptable, if only because they’re part of that character.
Now acting on that rage…. Well. That’s another blog post altogether.