Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Loving Your Characters

When I write, I try to love the characters I create... even the villains. But I especially have to love my main character. I'm asking readers to go along for a ride with her, to root for her, to laugh and cry with her. It wouldn't be fair of me to expect readers to do that for someone I didn't think was totally worthy.

That's why I aim to create wonderfully flawed, vulnerable, spirited, and resilient characters whom readers (and I) can identify with or try to be like or at least want to get to know.

And that's also one of the reasons why I'm having trouble with my main character in my work-in-progress. See, she is popular, and I have a thing about popular girls. I tend not to like them.

I'm not proud of this reverse-snobbery. It started in middle school when I was completely intimidated by a group of popular girls. They were so cool, and I was so not. I stayed away from them, and instead of admitting that they scared me, I found reasons to hate them.

At first glance, it might have looked like jealousy, but I never wanted to be like them or to be included in their group. If anything, I wished they would be more like me. Maybe then I wouldn't be so threatened by their perceived superiority in practically every area of life.

Thankfully, once I grew up, I stopped being intimidated by popular girls, and the reverse-snobbery faded away, but I know it's still there, under the surface. And as I sit here, trying to write about a popular 8th grader, I'm finding it challenging to get past my bias. It's so much easier for me to love the outsider.

But I realized something yesterday. Popular girls don't call themselves popular. That's a term other people use to label them, to exert some power over them. So I'm going to stop calling my character popular. She certainly wouldn't describe herself that way. She would actually be annoyed by the term and all that it implies.

Hopefully that will allow me to get a little closer to her heart. And she to mine.

1 comment:

lisanowak said...

I understand the fear of popular people. It started in the 8th grade for me, too. But in my case, I was a target.

There's nothing potentially meaner than an 8th grade, in my opinion. I think they're so overwhelmed by the changes in their bodies and their own insecurities that some of them will do anything to keep the negative attention off of themselves. Of course they're not all like that, but the ones who are stand out so vividly that you can still feel their presence decades later. Which is a good thing, I guess, if you're a writer trying to get in touch with your teenage angst.