Thursday, August 12, 2010

You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression - Characterization

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted. Summers are starting to catch up with me and I needed a few more hours of sleep.

I was thinking about this as I stumbled across (again) another book that had a lot of potential, but the start of the book simply ruined it for me. No, it wasn't the writing - that was great. No, it wasn't the plot - nice high concept. It was the approach the writer took to develop the character, and in this case (as were the other cases) it was the hero. The guy was a jerk.

Was the hero really a jerk? No. This was all an act for some particular plot purpose. The character, the hero was supposed to play was to be a jerk, and he did a great job of it. But here is the problem. The revelation that the hero had reasons for all of this didn't show up until much later in the story. In this case, the writer felt it was a good idea to keep it a surprise to both the heroine and the reader. When it did finally come out who the guy really was, I felt cheated. No, there wasn't an ounce of surprise, it worked with the story, it was the fact that I felt, as a reader, the author didn't trust me to keep a secret until it was revealed later.

Along with that feeling, I simply couldn't shake the real image I saw of the character in those early pages. The words clearly revealed this was an act. The internal dialogue of the hero told us it was the truth and there was nothing to warrant this thought, but that image still stuck.

As a writer, you have to make sure, that the good guys in the book are seen as people we will like. There might be rough edges but we can accept it.

If you are concerned about this idea, I would recommend something that I wish had the chance to say to these authors. Read that scene outloud. Would you want to continue, in any fashion, with a relationship with this person. In business, personal, friendship? It doesn't matter. My bet is you would walk and the thing is - you don't want your reader to walk.


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post Scott.

    I would have done the same. If you're not told the reason why your hero is acting mean, you just assume they're mean and if that's the case, why would you care about them to read on?