This month’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group question: What are you pet peeves in reading/writing/editing?
I had to think long and hard about this because I don’t think I have any pet peeves when it comes to writing. I’m open to anything and everything and willing to try it all. Really! Anything that will help me get words on the page in such a way that the reader doesn’t want to put it down–I’m all for it!
However, I turned my thoughts to reading. What is it that makes me close a book and not want to pick it up again?
If I’m not interested in the characters… if I’m not engaged, I won’t read the book.
It’s very sad, but just the other day I got 80% of the way through a book (according to my Kindle) and then got bored. The characters were the same-old, same-old. They didn’t seem to be growing any more, the story was just one “exciting” happening after another. I was bored. So, I closed the book, popped over to Amazon and wrote a review. I gave the author four stars because he did hold my attention for the first 80% of the book.
If I don’t like a character — if they prove (through their actions) to be TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) I will close a book and never pick it up again.
If a character is mean or nasty for no reason, the book is gone.
If a character is dull or uninteresting, I won’t read it.
If they don’t capture my heart and make me care, I’m outta there.
With interesting, realistic characters who change and grow there’s no way you can write a boring a book. The characters will pull the reader through the story. If you have an interesting story, but cardboard characters who don’t grow or are uninteresting… well, sometimes I’ll read it, but that story has to be fantastic. But even then, I’ll frequently lose interest or begin wondering what the point of the story is after a while. If I can’t find one, I’m gone–I don’t care how far through the book I am.
For this reason, even when I read and write my own work, if I don’t love my characters, that book, those people, are going to get rewritten. I’ve done it before. I’ve scrapped thousands of words and plenty of story ideas because the characters simply weren’t compelling.
I need to love my characters. I need them to inspire feelings. If they’re blah, they get rewritten.
Now, I do need to say that this is only true for my primary, and main secondary characters (hero, heroine, hero’s best friend, heroine’s parent–anyone who has a lot of dialogue and takes up space in the story). Throw away characters like people who show up for one or two scenes and don’t say much, who are just there for my characters to interact with, can be as two-dimensional as they please because there are hundreds of them.
Yes, I know that that’s wrong. Every character in your book, no matter how minor, should have a goal, motivation and conflict and think that they are the protagonist of the story. However, I don’t usually have time to develop these characters. If I took that time, it would take me years to write one book and it would be a tome going off on all sorts of meaningless tangents. Maybe, just for fun, I’ll write something like that where I put all of the stories for each and every character into a footnote to the extent that every footnote is a short story in and of itself. Now that would fun!
However, I’m not going to do that for every book I write, so I’ve got meaningless, two-dimension characters to fill my stories with — they’re just bodies. But they are useful bodies because they allow my main characters to grow and shine. It is they who allow me to show exactly how wonderful and interesting–or screwed up and interesting–my main characters are.
So, there it is, my pet peeve: boring characters.