Sunday, July 15, 2012

Entering In

So this is me writing my first blog.

A little bit about who I think I am to enter an already crowded field of bloggers, many of whom have been at this for quite awhile and have a lot of good things to say.

I've been a writer for quite a few years, enough years to have accumulated some opinions about this difficult, often lonely, business of wrestling words into submission. But I don't live in a vacuum. None of us do. I need your feedback.

Here's what you can expect from me: In each blog, I will explore a topic. I will explain my thinking and how I got there. Sometimes I will offer tips and suggestions based on what has worked (or hasn't) for me as a writer. Sometimes I will talk about things that are going on in my life, when it helps explain my point-of-view. And I will ask you to weigh in with your thoughts, experiences, and opinions.

Right now I am writing a novel that has yet to acquire a title. I feel shy talking about it because one of the main characters is anything but admirable: he is a pimp. Every time someone asks me what I'm working on, I find myself mumbling the answer. Or changing the subject. Why is this? It's because I have heard for years--almost as many years as I have been writing--that my characters need to be likable. And by that people almost always mean good. Or admirable. Or at least redeemable. A pimp is none of those things.

Years ago I belonged to a critique group. In those days I wrote short stories and almost every week I would bring in a new one to read. The feedback was inevitably the same: "You must write about people we can care about." One woman said, "Why can't you write about nice people?"

Now, I don't know about you, but I find nice people awfully boring to write about. They're lovely to know, wonderful as neighbors, but it's difficult to find much in them to design a story around. What would Paradise Lost be without Satan? Flat. Dull. In fact, there would be no story at all.

Don't get me wrong: I don't write about the delicious dark males that populate romance novels. They aren't real villains. They are the stuff of fantasy. We love to hate them. In fact, maybe we just love them.

My characters--the ones that disturbed the critique group--tend to be products of real-world problems. Often they live in squalid surroundings, are poor, or have few of the resources we middle-class folks take for granted. Sometimes abuse has damaged their souls. Some of them, like my pimp, Plato, are even perpetrators.

But that doesn't mean that Plato and his fictional siblings are worthy of condemnation. Because, while their behavior is reprehensible, their characters are complex, their motives are mixed, and their minds are capable of change. Which is not to say that Plato will become a goody-two-shoes at the end of the novel, but only that he is a mixture of good and bad, admirable and despicable. The things he does, he does to survive. Just like most of us.

I don't know about you, but I think flawed characters are the only interesting characters. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I think it's purely perceptive. It's why there are different markets, there's always going to be someone who enjoys your writing, characters, places and thoughts - and others that won't.

    A character should always have a good mix of flaws, flaws are reality and people find that relative.