More on Characters' character

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I'm reading a book by an author I've never read before, and the heroine keeps doing stooopid stuff. It's a mystery/thriller and there's a stalker after the heroine. First off, she tears up two disturbing/threatening letters, before she decides to show the third one... to a friend. That's right, not the cops. A friend. The friend is the one who says he'll pass the letter on to connections he has in the police department.

Then when the heroine finds a dismembered body on the private (restricted entrance to those living there) beach and a heart carved in the sand with her name, she says nothing about the heart, because she thinks maybe she imagined it when it's washed away in the tide before the police arrive. Who gives a crap if you imagined it ya stupid beyo*tch! Tell the police and let them decide. You ain't gonna be imagining the world of pain coming down the turnpike of life to run your ass over in the very near future.

She gets another letter, 'hand delivered' this time (no stamp) to her mailbox and takes it with her on vacation. ::slaps forehead:: once she gets around to reading the stalker mail, does she contact police back at home? You don't even need 3 guesses for this one, do you? Or how about the postcard that's sent to where she's vacationing by the stalker--do you think she faxed, phoned, emailed, snail-mailed, telegraphed, morse-coded, text-messaged, or carrier-pigeoned this pertinent piece info to the dectives working on the case? Nope. Blockhead decides to wait till she gets back.

I. Hate. When. Writers. Make. Their. Characters. Do. Stupid. Ass. Things. For. The. Sake. Of. The. Plot.

Your character loses all integrity, viability, and depth. They also lose the readers' respect. Furthermore, the reader stops trusting 'you' the writer. Where you want your reader to follow whichever path you decide to lead them down storywise, you'll have, instead, an unwilling participant, questioning everything you say, do, and present. You never, never, never want these things to happen.

If there's a plot twist that you simply must have in your book, find another way to get there than to make your character a f*ckin' imbecile. Need more story? Make something up. You're a godd*mn writer. Ever heard of 'conflict'? Get you some. Do not reel out the storyline by trying to 'artificially' delay the inevitable with stupid assed dumb decisions and/or actions on the part of your characters.
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Jordan Summers said...

Now you don't want to ruin a perfectly good vacation worrying about a death threat. ;-P

Bernita said...

Liked this.
Afraid I tend in the opposite direction. My characters may be too damned smart.

Sasha said...

OK. I changed my mind. I don't think I want you to read my current ms.


Amie Stuart said...

Stupid characters and dialogue that just goes round and round and round and...... *shaking head* = wall banger

Jaye said...

I totally agree, Jordan. Oh, heck! Let's invite the stalker for drinks at the bar. *grrr* :-P

Bernita, I've never come across the *too smart* protag yet, in my reading. I happen to like the smart protags, a la Grisholm (CSI), Dective Columbo, Hercules Pirot, et al.

Gee, Sash, you and Dee have had me crit for you before. I'm not that bad. :-P

Yes, Cece, circular dialogue with no point, also drives me batty.

Danica said...

And now you've pointed out WHY I am stuck in my current MS. Any action my heroine takes at this point is going to be constituted as contrived or make her seem TSTL. It's not a suspense, but I'm real tempted at this point to just blow the house up or something.

Trace said...

Great post, Vanessa. I totally agree. I'm wondering why the editors don't say something to the writers about this kinda stuff.

Demented M said...

Well, while I agree with your point,I will say, some people are that dumb. My mother had a peeping tom who sent her 'love notes' and she didn't think she should talk to the police. I had to force her to notify them and then the police didn't care. It's only after you're raped/murdered that they bother.

So, for me, I can buy stupidity on some of this stuff up to a point. Although the book you're describing sounds like it got pretty ridiculous.


KimH said...

Great post. I couldn't agree more. I find myself yelling at characters. That's not a good sign.

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