Monday, May 10, 2010
Okay, I have to see what you all think. I’m working on a new book and the heroine has a… let’s call it a phobia of sorts. She’s irrationally scared of something happening (something VERY unlikely) and this will lead to the moment when she believes that she can’t be with the hero.
Now, I get phobias. I do. I have a big problem with heights. REALLY big. We visited New York three years ago and went to the top of the Empire State Building. I could look out over the city, but could NOT look straight down. Can’t do it. My heart races, my palms sweat and I get dizzy. It’s bad. I couldn’t even enjoy an IMAX theater show about hang gliding. I actually got nauseated. I also have a particular hatred and, yes fear, of spiders. In fact, anything with more than four legs can really creep me out. And finally, small spaces. Hate elevators in particular. So, yeah, phobias are real and I’m sympathetic.
My question is how forgiving can we be of a character’s fear? Our characters are supposed to be heroic, yes? Strong, able to overcome. In the end, they do (she will—I promise!). But what if they come across as whiny and weak in the meantime?
So, what’s your tolerance as a reader for character flaws? They have to have them to be sympathetic and real. They have to have them to grow, to triumph, to prove to themselves that they are strong enough to face anything with and for this person they’ve fallen in love with.
But have you ever met a heroine, or hero, that you were not sympathetic toward or who started to bug you as the story goes on? I have.
I don’t want to name names, but I read a heroine once who was so worried about what her father would think that she did a bunch of really stupid things, made multiple wrong choices and eventually ran the hero off. Of course, they reconciled in the end, but I barely made it to that part. I kept wanting to yell at her “get a spine! Tell you’re a-hole father off!”. She never did and I definitely liked her less. A New York Times bestselling author who I follow faithfully also once wrote a hero who was convinced he was going to die at a very young age like his father did. This belief colored everything he did, including not wanting to get close to the heroine. I kind-of get it. His father’s death was traumatic for him, of course. But as the book went on it became less and less believable until I got to the point where I was annoyed rather than sympathetic toward him.
I don’t want that to happen. So when does a sympathetic belief turn into an annoying weakness? Anyone have an idea? I’d love to hear your opinions. And I’d love to hear examples of heroines and heroes who have blown it in your opinion!
Posted by Erin Nicholas at 7:49 AM