Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I know at this point in my blogging career, readers have probably lost count of the number of things I’ve listed as literary pet peeves, but let me add this one: excessively quirky characters.

You know what I’m talking about:
Her name is Calliope and she’s a welder by day, an assassin by night. Her assassin’s weapon of choice? A spear gun! The darts of which have been dipped in radioactive curare! (Can curare be radioactive? I’ve never heard of that.) She loves mah-jongg, cranberry gelato, and dyes her hair a different color each day (Really? How does she have time to do that with all the assassinating and welding she’s doing?) She's on a mission to unearth the truth about her missing parents, both of whom were circus freaks/CPAs. (So they can, like, do my taxes while swallowing flaming swords or something? I'd actually pay extra for that, assuming they could get me a decent refund.)
Come on.

I think the reason for these sorts of over-the-top characterizations is that we authors are trying to avoid making obvious choices about what characters should be or act like.

I’m sympathetic. I am. Nobody likes to feel like they’re trotting out clichés at every turn. There have been many times I’ve taken out references or changed direction plot-wise because I decided I was being too obvious (read: lazy) in my narrative choices.

So, yeah, obviously one should avoid being too obvious. But let’s not swing too far in the opposite direction either. I’m sure we can all count on one finger the number of people we know who are internationally-sought-after computer hackers and also accomplished flamenco dancers.

Have you ever created something—a plot twist, a relationship, a setting—and thought, “Hmm. No, that’s far too obvious.” What did you do about it?

And since no one says the word, “Obviously,” like Alan Rickman, I leave you with this:

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