It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
JANUARY QUESTION: Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?
MY ANSWER: the crucial aspect of fiction for me is the characters. If I dislike the protagonist in a story I read, I rarely finish that story. One of the human traits that most often throws me out of a story is stupidity. I can’t abide stupid behavior (which for some reason frequently happens in romance novels). I also dislike alcoholics and drug addicts. I don’t want anything to do with them in real life and I don’t want to read about them in fiction. Otherwise, it is case by case.
Sometimes, a writer is wonderful, and I enjoy some of their books, but can’t read others because the leading character repulses me.
Writing textbooks and writing teachers all give the same advice: make your protagonist flawed. And young writers usually comply. They invent flaws for their protagonists. Such an approach to writing turns me off. I never do that in my own fiction. If my protagonists are flawed, their flaws grow organically. They are never invented or applied arbitrary. Truth to tell, I try to write my heroes as perfect as I can, totally likable, although they never come out that way. There is always something problematic in their psyche or their decision-making.
Most often, to achieve their goals, my heroes lie. Their lies don’t hurt anyone except the bad guys, but many people consider the ability (and sometimes inclination) to lie as a character flaw. I wonder if my predilection to solve my fictional problems with lies says something about me as an author and a person? Caveat: I don’t usually lie in my real life.
What about you? What character flaws creep up in your fiction repeatedly?