September 20, 2010

Musing Mondays (1)

This is my first time I've participated in the Musing Mondays meme hosted by Should Be Reading...really like the question this week!

What makes you love / hate a character in a book?

Characters often make or break a book for me. I love characters that are human, flawed, with quirks like everybody else. I also often like characters with a good sense of humor and a relatable voice. And I enjoy characters that grow throughout the book, as long as it isn't done in a 'preachy' type of way.

I hate characters that are two-dimensional, shallow, perfect (Mary Sues), or very obviously have a certain trait just because the author wants to point it out. Also, I dislike characters' voices that are trying too hard to sound like teens and just end up sounding forced and wrong. It annoys me, too, when characters turn out to have this hidden talent you didn't know about for most of the book that is just the thing they need to get them out of a sticky situation (this mostly crops up in fantasy novels).

How about you?



  1. If a character is driven by emotions that I can't connect with or relate to, I get very frustrated. :)

  2. I need for the character to have flaws, and funny is always a big plus!

  3. One character that's really appealed to me is "Stargirl" from the book of the same name by Jerry Spinelli. The funny thing is that, by these rules, she should be aggravatingly and boringly "perfect" (as Leo asks her once, "Are you running for saint?") and yet she's very believable and still very human. Maybe it's all her creative quirks (leaving money on the sidewalk for others, her pet rat, her ukelele, as well as other plot details like Leo's porcupine ties ;D) that make her and the story as a whole genuine and truly moving rather than "flat" and preachy.

    One of my favorite quotes is by Simone Weil: "Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating."
    Indeed, I think one of the hardest challenges for an author is writing a believable "good" character. Villains are easy

    - The Contrapuntal Platypus :)

  4. @Melissa: so true! Sometimes if a character's motivations aren't believable or I can't sympathize with them, that will stop me from really connecting to them.

    @brandileigh2003: yes, gotta love characters who know how to make you laugh :D

    @contrapuntalplatypus: I think part of the problem with Stargirl is that she's too nice - and she tries too hard, without having any sense of how others perceive her. That could be seen as a flaw in a way - that her perspective of how others think is kind of out of sync with reality, perhaps.

    Although, I must admit to liking Leo, the protagonist, more than Stargirl. Interesting, because he doesn't actually have that many quirks (while Stargirl has tons) but he actually struck me as more relatable, especially as he represents the need to conform warring with the recognition of Stargirl's uniqueness.

    Agreed that villains are easy to create - but complex, three-dimensional, not-quite-good-not-quite-bad characters are, to me, the most difficult. Create a 'villain' who does care about certain individuals or certain moral principles, and then you introduce the element of unpredictability that really livens things up!

  5. I hate the hidden talent thing! I agree, it's definitely annoying.

  6. @Alissa: yes! I know, it's altogether too convenient.

  7. I pretty much agree with what you've said! A hidden talent is fine as long as it's been mentioned or weaved into the story somehow (even a hint), but a talen just appearing at just the right time? Doesn't wash with me.

  8. I agree I like my characters to be flawed as well. Too perfect, too whiney or always playing the victim irritate me.Here is my Musing for Monday.

  9. The hidden talent thing is one of the things that turns me off from fantasy most often. It is one of those things that make me sigh and put the book down to do something else(most likely write something that I think would be better). I might have to do this too. Thank you for sharing this cool meme.

  10. Oh my characters that try to sound like a teen and fail are horrible!

  11. I love your answer, I have similar thoughts. Characters definitely need to have flaws, I find it really annoying when an otherwise wonderful character is just too saintly and perfect. Another thing is when a character does something completely unlike them just to fit in with the storyline.
    The best characters are always memorable and make you want to read their book again and again to get to know them better and spend time with them like old friends!

  12. Thanks for all the responses! Great to hear your views on what character traits you like/dislike.

    @Stephanie: yes, I also get frustrated when a character behaves inconsistently, especially if there's been no sign of character development but all of a sudden they start acting differently.


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