Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Patience is a Virtue, but not so much in a Book...

Hey everyone. I was visiting everyone's blogs and catching up when PJ Hoover's blog posting on patience made me realize something! I don't know the last time I had an epiphany, but it always feels so darn good to have one, doesn't it?

So she was talking about having patience in your life and I realized, while patience is a virtual in real life, in a book, it is a downright killer. Your Main Character needs to have a sense of urgency in order to move the book forward, keep the reader interested, and make the story captivating.

Imagine if your MC had acquired patience... "Oh, that's OK Johnny, we can save Dad tomorrow. No need to hurry or freak out about it. The sun is setting and it will dangerous for us to go now. Let's get a good night sleep, eat a hardy breakfast and break out tomorrow...."

Of course I can think of a few books where acquiring patience was an integral part of the story, like Island of the Blue Dolphins, or Sign of the Beaver. But these main characters' lives depended on having patience and, they had to learn how to have patience. The writer had to write scenes before showing a lack of patience so growth, and the pain that comes with learning this life lesson, could be felt by the reader. But it doesn't, in my opinion, make for the most thrilling reading. It was heart felt, and interesting, and necessary, but it was not nail biting, sitting on the edge of your seat, thrilling reading. At least not for me - I liked both books very much, but not for the thrill of the ride. And not every book has to be wirtten that way, nor should it.

But let's think about this... In life you should not lie, steal, cheat, hurt or cause harm, etc. But in a book, these not so favorable life characteristics make for better reading.

Let's hear from you. I have my theories on why this is. But what do you think? Why do you think the tragically flawed protagonist is still the most favorable way to write since before Shakespeare?


PJ Hoover said...

Because he's the hero! And heroes need flaws. It's what makes them interesting and also brings them down to our level so we can identify with them. A perfect character would have no room for growth.
They need to do wrong things. Be afraid of stuff. And impatience is good!
Now they can grow.

Sheri said...

Ahhh. That it! Yes, yes, and yes. They need to be interesting and relatable and have potential of growth.

No one wants to read about someone who is perfect. Except antagonists because we love to hate perfect people, don't we? As a matter of a fact in my MG novel, my antagonist is called "Perfect Becky Sanderson" by my MC and I've been told that people INSTANTANEOUSLY HATE her upon reading just those three words. And when we meet a "perfect" antagonist, we can't wait for that glorious moment when they fall from grace.

Flaws. We all have them. And, yes, I agree, that is why we need our MC's to be fatally flawed as well - so we - the reader - can identify with them - just like you said, PJ! I am in total agreement!

ChrisEldin said...

Fun post!

I guess it's more fun to root for the underdog. Somebody flawed who succeeds means it's easier to picture our own flawed selves succeeding.


Sheri said...

Another good point Chris. EW want our readers to live vicariously through our MCs.

Rebecca said...

Because people are people, and ain't none of them perfect. Who would believe in a character that wasn't at least a little messed up in some way?

Sheri said...

Very true Rebecca.

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous