I know that I have spoke about characters before but I recently found a new take on the subject. I probably haven’t mentioned it before, but I am an avid fan of soap operas, such as The Young and the Restless. Just as a fore warning this post does contain some spoilers.
But getting back to my love of soap operas, we see characters as both from a viewer/reader perspective but also as a writer. We see characters as those that we have put a lot of thought and work into. We see characters as those that we use merely as tools in other words when we think of thrillers or mysteries there is always that one character that has to be as the sacrificial lamb and have to die to move the story further. Let’s face it for without their death, there wouldn’t be a mystery or a crime that needed to be solved. Then there are the villains that we are miserable people and we hope that they meet a ruthless end for all the horrible things that they have done.
However, based on this principle as writers that we pour so much into these characters, what if we have readers that hate our characters with a passion but as writers we love them? Well, let’s get back to one of my favorite soaps, The Young and the Restless. Currently, one of the story lines is that there was a car crash that has left one of these hated characters on her deathbed because there was too much damage to save her. We know as viewers based on the information that we have that she is going to die. It’s her fate in life. Granted, for those that are avid fans, we pay attention to news feeds and spoilers that the actor/actress who plays this character is leaving the show, and that was announced a few months ago.
But in the last week of the show, the viewers that hated her so much and wanted her to leave or die are now left with the fact that they actually liked her. Why? The reason is that the writers changed the perspective of making her sweet, kind, and all the things that she was not during her time on the show. Did this change my mind on her character? You bet it did. I was sucked into actually liking this character and wishing that she was leaving and that her character wasn’t dying to leave her loved ones to morn for her passing.
This subject was put on one of the many soap groups that I’m a member of on Facebook. I commented with the following: The writers are making us pay for the way that we treated this character, and therefore they played their hand well. Well, played writers.
Yes, this is what I said. I said that the writers played their hand well. But not only did they make the viewers feel guilty for what they had said about this character, but also the other characters that treated this character badly. I think that this shows us as writers, that when our readers hate our characters, we can get them back by saying, “I’m going to make you like this character in their final moments.”
Now, I’m going to change the perspective again. By mentioning a character that everyone wanted to die originally on Game of Thrones and that is Prince Joffery. Yes, he treated Sansa poorly and was a disgusting human being, granted he was nothing like Ramsey Bolton. But still he had his moments where we wanted him to get what he deserved. However, then we think about his death, where he was poisoned did he actually deserve that kind of death?
I mean really think about it, as Lady Olena stated in her last speach, “I had never seen the poison work before. It must have been horrible to watch as a king’s guard but more as a father. Lips red, skin purple, vile spilling, him clawing at his throat.”
Take that all in and that scene of him dying with everything else that we know about the character, did he actually deserve this? Sure, I cheered like most everyone else when he died. But then when you take in her speech, he didn’t fully deserve it. Now Ramsey Bolton, on the other hand, yes, he deserved what he got. No, question asked. He deserved to be mauled to death by his dogs that he had not fed for days.
Granted, not every character’s death should make us readers feel bad or guilty for the way that we have been made to feel about them. But as writer’s there is a certain connection that we have with them. Good or other wise, they are like our children and as such we feel protective of them. We don’t want to hear bad things said about our characters and we do like any parent we want to make those pay for what they have done and said. This should be given some thought when we are setting our characters out into the world. But at the same time, will we be strong enough to play our cards close at hand and make our readers pay for all the nasty things that they have said about them in the past and make them care about them in their last moments?
We all have to make decisions about our stories, and we can have more leeway on this subject when we are writing a series versus a stand-alone book. Although, we can give another layer when we think about character and that is what will my reader think about them?
I hope that this helps your writing on this day. Until next time I hope that you have a great writing day!