Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fruit At Last!

No grape vine is worth the effort if it doesn’t produce fruit, and no story is worth reading without characters. Characters add the flavor to the story, and they come in many types – sweet, tasty, succulent, tangy, acidic, sour, bitter and bad – plus they can be fresh, moldy, shriveled, or dried either in body or soul. It’s a huge subject.

Focusing on heroes and heroines, with the exception of Pollyanna, readers’ often don’t particularly like heroines or heroes who are too-good-to-be-true characters. The girl who is never led astray, and never makes a mistake often takes second billing to the grittier I’ve-made-my-mistakes but basically morally good heroine. Who wants to read about the woman who always smiles and takes the high road no matter what malicious treatment or horrendous circumstance comes her way? Yuk! Who can measure up to that, and where’s the fun in the reading of their trials and tribulations? Supermen, those incorruptible do-gooders, often fall into this category, too. Can a story work with this type of character? Absolutely! What would Mary Poppins be with any other type of character? However, heroes and heroines who are all-too-human and who the reader can identify with make more interesting reading for most stories.

So what are the most interesting traits for characters to possess? Well, truthfully, as readers’ preferences are as different as all the stories told, so are the type of character they prefer. My personal preference is for an imperfect heroine and hero. Characters who have had, or are about to have, major obstacles to overcome; someone who struggles to get things right. What is important is they get it right or come close to overcoming their struggle by the end of the story, and that they grow in understanding of some issue which they share with the me, the reader. The heroes and heroines I admire must also show a basic morality and empathy for others, even the anti heroes have that one defining moment. A simple concept to understand but often hard to write for developing a heroine or hero can become a balancing act. Too good and a character can become syrupy and unbelievable, too bad can repulse the reader. In building obstacles and temptations, a hero can fall only so far they become nonredeemable in the reader’s mind.

In grapes the balance of natural sugars and acidity provides the taste, in stories, the emotions and behaviors of the heroes and heroines. So as any vintner and every writer knows, its all in the fruit.

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Big Mike said...

Good analogy, Rhobin. In my debut novel, TAINTED HERO, the tag line was "Sometimes good guys do bad things, for the right reasons". The hero was a great guy, yet very troubled and contrary to common wisdom for modern social philosophies. The reviewers loved him, 6 five star reviews, so I agree with your point.

Michael Davis (
Author of the year (2008 & 2009)

Rhobin said...

Thanks, Mike. I noticed we both had a back-to-back character theme.