Greetings all,

First a few notes:  For starters, I have the files for the Sojourn in Captivity audio book. I’m reviewing them now. The (very early) results seem wonderful.

Next: My wife an I are officially trying to have a child. This required a surgery to reconnect her tubes (which had been done during her previous marriage). The surgery went well, and I’d just like to take a moment and thank God for that. She and I both truly wanted to have more children, and we’re grateful the door is open. Her recovery has us both growing (code word for frustrated, which is actually why I’m doing this topic today). She’s stir crazy, and my routine is shot. Her number one comfort is being outgoing and doing things, which she can’t. My number one comfort is routine and consistency, which is nonexistent when I’m working and running a house.

But I truly mean it when I say this helps us grow.  You see, I aspire to have a boring life. I love the idea that tomorrow will be just like today. (Not at all my wife’s idea of a good day, but in this case opposites attract).  It’s all fine and good for a person to like what he likes, but if we don’t experience pain, we don’t grow. No one wants to read about the guy who encountered no stress and overcame nothing.

When we encounter struggles, it changes us. Pain  helps us grow. No, I don’t look forward to it, but I’m better when it’s over. Our characters are the same way.

Rand
Image taken from A Wheel of Time Wiki for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

A lot of my favorite characters are characters who suffered plenty: Rand from Wheel of Time suffered a ton (as did my favorite character in that series, Perrin). I’d say these characters are the extremes in terms of my top three series ever. Still, all my favorite books (personally) feature characters who truly struggled.

Here’s the next part to why this is so important. The readers or viewers must believe the characters might fail. I often have playful (yet also serious) arguments with a friend of mine (Hi Terry!) regarding why I honestly don’t care for DC. The characters are too powerful.  They have near Olympian power. Sure, Marvel has some OP characters, but most DC characters are of a ridiculous power level. I’m not afraid for them. I’m not in the least bit worried they won’t win the fight or meet their goal. This makes the story boring. If you want readers interested in your story, you need to convince the reader that character might fail.  This is all the more difficult to do because most readers expect a happy ending. They anticipate that, so it’s such an art to instill an honest sense of fear of failure for the character.

The wife and I don’t hate Jodie Whittaker or her Doctor, but we really couldn’t get into her first season. Now, other than Matt Smith (who remains the greatest Doctor ever), I hated every first season of every doctor. I think the writers take time to figure out the new Doctor just like the new Doctor (in the story) takes a minute to figure him or herself out. But we couldn’t get into it. Then something occurred to me: She never lost. Yes, the grandma died (was it the first episode?), but there wasn’t a connection. In fact, I’m of the opinion that character was pretty expendable. Why? Guess:

She was happy.

Doctor
Image taken from BBC.com for character study purposes under Fair Use Doctrine.

The only good thing a happy character can do in a story is die. They have no struggle, and therefore they have no interest. The most interesting thing that could happen is to see this wonderful, happy character die, thus causing all the other characters to become even more interesting as they try to adjust to life after happy character.

Most of my readers who I talk to during conventions often ask me about the characters who die. We talk about this a little. The one character I get the most (playful) anger with killing (no spoilers) was the character who was happy. But that character’s death shook the readers and gave them an emotional jolt. This loss affected not only the readers, but the characters around the the dearly departed.

So I had some interest, but then life got consistent for the Doctor. Then things got easy. I can think of a few instances when there was great opportunity for this Doctor to face true loss on a couple different stages, and the writers didn’t take the plunge. But you can only put Lois Lane on the train tracks so many times before the readers don’t even care anymore.  Sooner or later, that engine needs to plow over Lois, or the “act” gets boring. That’s what I feel happened with this latest season of Doctor Who.

So I wanted to throw out those ideas when I had a moment. Hopefully things calm down for me. (I really do appreciate growth, but I miss my routine something fierce right now, and my wife is going to go out of her mind if I can’t take her out next week.)

What do you all think? Do you have a story you realize you didn’t like so much for this reason? Do you disagree?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

2 thoughts on “The Need For Pain: Why Happy Characters Are Boring

  1. I had found some digitally remastered E-book Versions of books for young readers, from the 1800s. Most of them were grueling to get through. The stories were mainly about nice young people, doing activities that were enjoyable, at the time, and doing kind and selfless things for each other. There was very little conflict, and very carefully written versions of villains. I believe this had to do with the culture at the time. Back then, The American culture was a lot stuffier. Girls especially were expected to be unrealistically good and pure. The mild mannered, plainly dressed, practical character who loved to read and study, and who took on responsibilities, and helped others without a single complaint, was always the hero. The fun and flamboyant character was always the one who needed to change his or her wrongful Waze. I got through the books, because I like to finish what I started. But ugh, so boring.

    Liked by 1 person

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