Monday, September 27, 2010

Authors Leading Characters

Thanks again to Elana, Jennifer, and Alex for coming up with the Great Blogging Experiment. I'm still making my way through the list of participants; I hope to reach the end by this Friday. I'm now following a lot more blogs, and I'm amazed to see all the new followers I have. Welcome, everyone! To celebrate reaching 100 Followers, I'm going to announce a book giveaway on Wednesday. Stay tuned for more details.

In the meantime, I wanted to comment on something I noticed last week.

I don't have much free time for pop culture. Although I've heard of Glee, I didn't watch the first season. I have seen a couple of Lady Gaga videos, but I hadn't heard of Charice until last week, when my husband showed me this video and gave me a lovely earworm:

After watching this video, I kept thinking about Charice's character, Sunshine, and her appearance. The pigtails and big black glasses didn't suit her, to say the least. And she only wore them in this scene; I watched the entire episode online, and the rest of the time she had no glasses and wore a beret. I had come up with some reasons Sunshine would dress the way she does in the video (bad eyesight requiring heavy glasses to handle her prescription, poor self-esteem, personal taste, etc.), but they don't seem to fit the situation. The pigtails and glasses seemed like something put on Sunshine to make her an ugly duckling--or perhaps to make Rachael underestimate her. In other words, it seemed more like an author (or producer) decision than a character decision, and that pulled me out of the story.

I think that's something we authors need to be careful about in our own stories. It's not just about how we costume our characters; it's also about not forcing them to do something out of character for them to make the plot go a certain direction. In most instances, characters should show common sense and not do something that will hurt them--unless you've already demonstrated the character doesn't have common sense or has very good motivation to work against their own self-interest.

All that said, I did like the diversity of characters on Glee and enjoyed the plot twists. I told my husband we could watch the show together to have some couple time. Whether or not we can manage that with our three-year-old son's sleep (or lack-of-sleep) schedule is another story.

Do any of you have other examples from books, movies, or TV where the authors/producers obviously steered a character into doing something the character wasn't motivated to do?


Quinn said...

I don't watch Glee -- I think I may be the only one -- but I completely agree with what your saying. This goes back to what I said as well. We can't let plot drive our characters. They have to be true to themselves and act accordingly.

I can't think of any examples of characters acting out of character, but I'm sure as soon as I click "post" I will.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've never seen Glee; I know there's a big hype over it, but it doesn't interest me a whole lot.

But you're right about letting the characters be themselves and not jamming them into the plot where they don't really fit.

Christine Fonseca said...

Authenticity man...that is it. You have to be true to the characters themselves. And yeah, I am still working through the blog list from Friday too! May take me all week.

Tara said...

I've never watched Glee, but with all the chatter between my friends on Facebook, and this scene, I may have to start.

Liz Fichera said...

I think that's what makes Glee work, though. You come to expect the unexpected, but I think this can only be done with proper character development. When it's false and not authentic, you know. For example, you discover that the cliched cheerleader in GLEE is not quite as cliched as you originally thought.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Quinn--It doesn't look like you're the only one.

Golden Eagle and Christine--I agree that the characters have to be true to themselves. Even Shakespeare agreed. ;)

Tara--I'm looking forward to the performance parts of Glee.

Liz--Since Sunshine is a new character, it should be interesting to see how she develops.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

The horrendous bestseller THE PASSAGE was filled with characters forced into actions contrary to their prior actions and personalities. Brrr. The book left me cold.

Thanks for visiting and following my blog. I've been a follower of yours for awhile, Roland

N. R. Williams said...

That annoyed me because of the machine repeating things. But I can see the attraction for younger people. Does that age me. I cannot watch most T.V. shows. The writing is awful most of the time. That said, my favorite show at the moment is 'Ace of Cakes.' I would have loved working for Duff.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Carolyn V. said...

Yes, I totally agree. We have to watch that our characters don't do anything they really wouldn't do. Sometimes I have to have my crit group help me with that. =)

VR Barkowski said...

I haven't seen Glee either, lol, although I will likely watch season one on DVD eventually (I don't watch "live" TV EVER).

Surprise is a wonderful thing, but only when it's true to the character. The pigtails and glasses seem more like a plot device. That's bad form. I can't think of any explicit examples, but back when I was in college and watched soap operas, that sort of thing happened all the time.

I'm still working through TGBE list, too. May take me the rest of the month!

Talei said...

How funny - I just found this scene via twitter last week. I love Glee, but must confess that I wasn't able to catch the series on TV for various reasons - so I bought the first DVD. And still haven't watched it.

I guess the only example that could come close to this is Ugly Betty, her persona is geeky, her fashion sense atrocious and yet...she works for fashion mag, has hot guys chasing her. Am I missing something? *whisper* maybe I'm just envious? LOL

Shari Green said...

Great point -- we need to let our characters be themselves! Thanks for the terrific & memorable example of what NOT to do! ;)

Nicki Elson said...

Hey, awesome follow-up the the Experiment! Guess it got you thinking about character develoment, ey?

This is going to sound strange, but what you point out here is actually a pet peeve of mine for REALITY TV. You can totally tell when the "character" is being produced---when they are making decisions not because that's what they would normally do, but because the producers are telling them to. The Bachelor is the biggest offender, and because of it, I've had to give it up my favorite guilty pleasure. :(

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