Thursday, August 20, 2009
Raiders of the Deer Hunter
A couple of things made me feel so sunny and happy this morning, I could have skipped if I weren't driving at 75 mph down I-25. Why? First I saw the best number plate on minivan: "GO READ." I wanted to pass it and roll down my window to yell something encouraging, but you know, 75 mph and all. And then, the radio station played Michael Buble's Home, followed by Earth, Wind, Fire singing Let's Groove. (Feel free to make fun of my taste in pop music.)
All right, some days It doesn't take much to make me happy. Even hearing the word "aeroplane" in Home provided a pleasant little skip to my heart. Maybe it's because I haven't heard that word since moving to the US where we use the shorter and possibly more efficient "airplane." Or maybe Michael Buble can sing any word and I'd think it was dreamy.
Wait, Buble's voice isn't the point.
The point is that people like unusual combinations of things. A classically trained musician can love Prokofiev and Dvorak as well as R.E.M and E.L.O. (Yes, the offer to make fun still stands.)
A woman can be a nerdy bookworm who cannot stand being too girly-girly, and still once dreamed of being a fashion designer. She can love her very practical Saturn Vue with a Honda Pilot engine, perfect for where she lives, and still wish for a Mazda Miata or a VW GTI manual. She can love depressing movies as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As writers, we strive to avoid cliched characters, but it's not easy to convince our readers that a character can possibly possess all these seemingly incompatible traits and interests. "Wait, but Sienna is a cheerleader type who would never dream of getting her hands dirty by working at the co-op farm!"
The problem, I think, is that we tend to sort people into categories almost as soon as we meet them. And unfortunately, this sorting ends up coloring every new bit of information we get subsequently. If the first time you meet me, I am working at the co-op farm wearing running clothes and then I fixed you a healthy, non-fat, all-vegetable lunch, I may have trouble
convincing you that I am as sedentary as they come and I love butter. Yet, people do and often come in unusual combinations of flavors, and if it's so difficult to accept a multi-dimensioned person in real life, how much harder it is to create them in our stories.
Have you found characters you've read recently whose traits don't seem to jive? And if you're a writer, how do you overcome this problem?