Monday, February 25, 2013

Master Manipulators

My favourite characters in books are the ones that seem to be behind everything.  And yet, they never seem to be behind anything.

I realize that sounds contradictory, but anyone that reads a decent amount of books knows what I'm talking about.  They're the characters that you're fairly certain are idiots who have no idea about anything going on, but then turn out to be the ones behind it the entire time.  Where at the end of the book you think 'no freaking you.  Seriously?  You're the one that did that?'

Sometimes, of course, I have to wonder if the author intended that to happen.  Because, as a writer, I've got to tell you: I very rarely am intentionally creating those characters.

On more than one occasion I have started writing a character that I assumed was background, only to have the entire story turn around at the end and I suddenly realize that the character I thought was no one was more important than any other character in the story.

Why am I talking about this?  Normally these sorts of speculation are brought on by one of my own characters.  But, no.  This time it's because of a critique that I gave today.

In the book we've been critiquing, the author has lined up this character who often appears to simply be stumbling through the world, unsure of what he's doing or if he's even heading in the right direction, and yet things tend to work out for him.  Up until this point in the book, I was wavering between him being competent, and everything just being a happy coincidence.

Unfortunately I have a bit of an insider's point of view, as I know exactly who is pulling the strings, but at the same time, I still don't know all of the details.

This past chapter, though, that character finally pulled up his socks and admitted that he was, in fact, competent.  That he wasn't just a puppet whose strings are being pulled, and that he could manipulate at least those closest to him without too much trouble.

It was nice to see.  Because I enjoy those characters (so long as they're not completely evil with no redeeming qualities) he instantly shot up in my regard.  Suddenly he's far less of a character whose chapters I have to suffer through, and much more one that I look forward to reading about.

As for my own writing, manipulators seem to be few and far between.  At least in my current project (Birth) where all I have is a main character whose voice I can't seem to figure out.

But that's another blog post (check back Wednesday...) For now I'm going to impatiently wait until next week when I should get the next chapter in the book I'm critiquing and see where he takes it.

What's your favourite kind of character?  Do you ever wonder if authors do everything in their novels on purpose?

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