Sunday, April 28, 2013

Characters -Now in 3D

People are complicated. The characters in novels ought to be complicated as well. There’s nothing worse than a hero who is so shiny and good that you just want to punch him in the face, or a villain who is tiresomely evil just for the sake of it.

Grey areas. Why are they so hard to find in fiction, when we negotiate them in real life all the time?

I get that sometimes characters are archetypes. I get that fiction can be an escape. That’s fine, but those aren’t the stories I want to read. I prefer my characters to use the plot as a vehicle, not the other way around. And while there is always some comfort in the brave hero slaying the dragon, there’s also a reason we grow out of fairy tales.

I like stories that ask questions, not deliver sermons. 

So show me your hypocrites. You know, those of us who disagree with the government's funding cuts to arts and their policies on social issues, but every fortnight open the payslip with Queensland Government on the top. 

Show me your failures. You know, those of us who know we could do better, but don't always fight for it. 

Show me your characters who've had the edges knocked off their passion. Those of us who still believe things, but don't wear the slogans on their t-shirts. 

Show me normal people, who have doubts and fears about everyday things. 

Will I pay all my bills this month? 

If I quit my job, will I find another one? 

If I do wrong, will anyone find out? 

How can I be sure that this is what I want

And this counts for villains as much as heroes because, in the grey areas, sometimes there isn't that much to distinguish them. 

People change. We are changed by both internal and external forces. Sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. Show me that. 

Show me that if life had a Facebook status it would be, "It's complicated". 


  1. I like stories that ask questions, not deliver sermons.

    That's so important, and something I really have to watch out for.

    One thing that helped was a documentary I just saw on Philip Roth, where he said, "The obligation of a writer is not to provide the solution to a problem. You're inviting understanding."

    And another writer on the show, Nicole Krauss, said, "We don't go to literature for moral perfection, we go there for moral ambiguity, moral failing, moral struggle."

    Think I'll have my hero steal some sheep. :-)

  2. A sheep stealing hero. Why, it's crazy but it might just work!

    And books that masquerade as sermons are one of my pet peeves. Writers don't have all the answers. I mean, if we did, we'd run the world, right? ;)



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