Monday, June 26, 2017

Authors, how well do you know your characters?

I read a book yesterday. It was an erotic romance by a man. I found it extremely active. Great action not much telling. I had two problems with the story: one was that the heroine was a virgin (My eyes are rolling. No, really!) ...not that it isn't possible. But! She was extremely innocent and inexperienced until she took one look at the bad boy hero...and then while fearing for her hot. Then even her internal language changed, and her knowledgeable experience skyrocketed, but we never find out where she acquired the knowledge. She became more and more aware of her own needs and became very imaginative. (You go girl! High Five.) 

So my issues with reading books about virgins, in general, is it's important to establish whether the character is just physically a virgin or that he/she has lived a very innocent sheltered life. You can have both, but it's also important to manufacture a character who actually sticks to the characterization. More than anything this is a rant about characterization. The author almost had it right, just not quite.

You can't build a boat out of mesh and expect it to float. So although I enjoyed the way the writer expressed the story, I had a few problems with the plot, the characterization, and the way the exchanges between characters took place throughout the story. Too many plot holes and lack of information. Too little detail, that had it been added, could have clarified a lot.

Because it was also told in present tense, first person point of view, each character had their own chapter, and it was all well done. But in first-person point of view, the reader should have a lot of insight into the characters; what they think, what past experiences affected them, who they are...deep inside. We can get into that deep point of view. So it would be easier for us to get to know them in that point of view. The author missed a great opportunity.

Because what we get to know about them internally and how they portray themselves externally becomes inconsistent. Out of character behavior, dialogue, reactions.

Sometimes people do that. It's possible. But when actions define characters and those actions are inconsistent as well we need to know why. 

Now I'm going to say something which may not be politically correct. The female character was the culprit. She was the one who was defined by her virginity but didn't have much of a character outside of that. Whimpy woman syndrome. Is this the way men think of women who haven't had sex? Sex defines women and sets them free? A good man can solve all her maturing problems.

Men, if you're going to write about us...get to know us. Truly.

So I'm not knocking male writers who write romance. I think all authors need to get in the characters' points of view (male and female and other more deeply. (These are people, writers. Not cardboard cutouts with names and genitalia.)  And then stay physically, emotionally, and mentally consistent with that character as they change and grow. 

In other words, if the character is a virgin, she would think about why she was a virgin and whether or not she wants to stay a virgin when she gives it up to a stranger. He (the author) didn't get into that, or what past experiences she'd had either (reading about sex or listening to others). And what kind of friends she had. What was she really like? Why didn't she say things either in her head or verbally that indicated what knowledge she had about sex? TV and social media; books and magazines are possible information centers. Out of curiosity, it should be mentioned. Don't leave important characterization details out. I can imagine a character's hair color, but I want the author to clearly show me why a character is behaving in a certain way. 

1 comment:

  1. I've read male authors who write women pretty good but more who don't. I suppose I make my heroes like my idea of a good man, and a hot male. So maybe we should expect male writers to do the same. But there's no excuse for shallow characterization.


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