Baths are terrible for the environment, they really are. I shouldn’t say DON’T take them, because, let me tell you, they can be really nice-just don’t take them all the time.
I’m feeling like crap today. Seriously. So I took a bath. And because I took a bath, I feel a little bit better and I got to think. Which led to the writing of Annie’s epilogue (yay!). Not done with the story yet, but it’s nice to have an ending.
Anyway. Character study. That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Okay. So, while I was in the bath, I got to thinking about characters. We’ve covered how television ruined the bad v. good thing and how characters really need to be more well-rounded in fiction (because non-fiction is stranger) (bad doom doom *zing*) but we never did talk about character traits. Or maybe we did. Either way, we’re gonna talk about it again!
I’ve always hated English classes. I think because they were boring and I really didn’t care what a ‘hanging participle’ was. I still don’t like them, but, when I was in Mountain Home I had my first taste of what an English class was supposed to be like. My teacher was awesome and we got along fabulously. I learned more from him in a combined 16 weeks (Park University has 8 week courses) than I ever did in twelve years of school. I remember one class where we had to watch/read a play called “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. Great play. As well as being called ‘propaganda for the women’s movement’ it also introduced the idea of a single fault in a character to create conflict. Every character has a single fault that needs to be overcome to allow for growth and change.
Makes things easy. Character A has fault B but needs to overcome fault so that character C who is character A’s desire can be together. Or something. Insert your own vampire here, okay?
It’s a trend I see a lot in YA novels these days. I picked up six YA books in Hastings a few days ago and every. single. one had the same description.
Sally has just entered high school, and after day one she can safely say she hates it. Hates, hates, HATES it with ever fibre of her scrawny little body. Maybe it’s because the other girls pick on her for her underdeveloped body, or because her dad’s gas station is tanking…literally. But, unbeknownst to her, Sally’s life is about to change, dramatically. There’s a new boy in school. A cute boy with dangerous eyes and an easy smile who has taken an interest in her, her best friend Jason, seems to be afraid of her and sometimes, in the middle of the night, she wakes up glowing.
High school will never be the same again.
Insert your own faery/vampire/elf/other magical creature here. Whichever you prefer, not really important. Sally is our main character, so lets give her a fault. Physically she is underdeveloped, personality wise lets give her the old fall back of being a ditz.
Character A has to overcome being a ditz. Because Character B (the mysterious boy who may or may not be a vampire) is the object of her desire. We’ll call him Christopher and make him a shallow asshole. Because I want too. Now, Jason is Sally’s best friend and he’s nervous because he thinks he might be in love with Sally. Buuuuuuuuuuuuut (screw it) he is the faery prince and he’s been lying all of these years.
In a nutshell, Sally finds out that she’s part faery herself. That’s why she glows in the middle of the night and falls over things, and spaces out, and can see weird things in the middle of the cafeteria (never mind the eggs. Just don’t ask about the eggs) and generally makes a fool out of herself on a regular basis. Christopher has been looking for Sally for very many years and wants her power for himself and his dark faeries (sure, lets go with that) who have been trapped in the Nightworld for aeons, sent there for waging war on the faery kingdom. Sally is the key to everything because her undiscovered powers are the strongest in centuries. But he’s a shallow jerk. Even though he pays attention to Sally, he also messes with her feelings by making out with the head cheerleader in front of her every chance he gets, and making belittling comments when he is hanging out with Sally. But he’s cute, she’s infatuated, so it’s all okay. Jason has been keeping his eye on Sally and isn’t sure how to approach the girl he’s come to love about her ‘problem’ without sounding like a weirdo. Long story short, Christopher shows his true colours after entrapping and betraying Sally, Jason shows up to save the day bringing a faery army with him. Bad guys are defeated, Sally finds out the secret of her glowy-ness and realises her best friend was the guy she should have been pursuing the whole time. Because he accepts her for herself and so on and so forth. Happily Ever After.
It’s a story, right? Sure. One that I can’t write because high school was bad enough the first time around-I really don’t want to revisit it-but it has the potential to be a really good story. Within 200 pages Sally finds the secret to her glowing problem and learns self acceptance (overcoming her ditz problem. Maybe. There could be a sequel), Jason gets the girl, is a hero, and reveals himself as a prince overcoming his shyness and tendency to avoid Sally, and Christopher learns that being a jerk just doesn’t pay the bills. Sort of.
Badda bing, we have a story. With characters learning a lesson, growing up, and developing into people, perhaps with a sequel in the works.
Is that all it takes?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing YA books or saying some books are better than others. I’m not. In no way shape or form. Some of the best books I’ve read have been YA.
I’m just curious if Henrik Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ formula still holds true. Do characters only need one fault to get over for a story to make, or is there more than meets the eye?