Characters

Characters are so hard to get right. Sometimes you forget how hard it can be when you fill your brain with so much good reading material; you don’t notice the good characters (that’s how it should be).

However the last two books I have read have had the kind of main characters that just didn’t seem real to me. Certain things about their lives have been good – details on their daily lives, even the thoughts running through their heads – but major premises simply haven’t made sense, thus taking me out of the story and leaving me in a state of “I don’t believe this character so I’m not really enjoying the story.”

Example 1: The breakdown of a relationship; the woman is toying with the idea of an affair.

In an interview with the author, she says she surveyed her friends on their sexual preferences and fantasies so she could give a realistic representation of such. However the actual examples that were used in the story were so far from my own desires that I couldn’t understand the character at all (the main theme of the book was her sexual awakening). Yes I understand everyone’s preferences vary widely when it comes to sex and arousal but I really couldn’t connect with anything the character did or wanted in this respect.

(I am actually questioning the author’s research method here: should we rely on information from our own friends; when we so often choose acquaintance with those whom we share similar interests and preferences?)

Example 2: A young woman narrates a visit to a second-hand clothes store. She vividly describes the scene – colours, textures and prints .

In a class we read this scene and my classmate spoke up, questioning why this young woman who spoke with interjections of “like” and “you know” would know the names of patterns – paisley, gingham. To her the language of the description of the scene itself seemed too intelligent; and the girl’s speech didn’t match her perceived knowledge. There was a bit of debate in the classroom. To some it seemed like a reasonable question. Others believed the narrator would know the details of the fabrics, being the fashion aficionado that she was.

I think the final verdict was that not everyone is going to feel a bond with your characters and you just have to work as hard as possible to make sure everything works.

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