Wednesday, May 29, 2013

He's (mostly) there to laugh at

I love characters who are thrown in to lighten the mood and give readers a moment to take a breath. Even better if they also get the reader to think a little ;)

Of the different kinds of characters who can fulfill this role, I like the ones who say stupid things the most.

Like, I love Jayne from Firefly.


A few days ago, I had the fun of one-such comedic-timing-styled character spontaneously drop into Project #6... with a few surprises...


This was probably due to a conversation I had last week with someone at the dog-park about racism in Canada. The person I was talking to is an immigrant from Russia who is currently taking an MBA program at one of the Vancouver universities.

...but that isn't all that important, more just me connecting the dots as to how & why this particular new character showed up without me planning for him.

The important part of the conversation was about how some people are so overly concerned with being politically correct, that it goes beyond treating everyone the same, and becomes a different way of singling out groups of people (be those racial, sexual, religious, etc). Like how there was the discussion about editing Mark Twain's books, 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huckleberry Finn' to remove certain racial slurs which are no longer deemed appropriate.

Words have power, and certain words that originally had no malicious intent behind them, have become skewed through fear & hatred.

Like, I remember my mom telling me once that, when she was at university, the word 'fag' referred to a cigarette. Now, if someone used that term, the assumption would be completely different.

How our society looks at certain words might change, but people who fear & hate will always find new words to replace the old ones. White-washing old literature does nothing to change that, all it does is paint a pretty layer over the underlying rot. It's just pretending the problem isn't there.



So, something that became ensnarled in the back of my brain was the notion of bigotry, in its widest form.

What happens if a person hates everyone equally?

If they are equally rude to Females, Koreans, Caucasians, Africans, Buddhists, Jews, etc?

...if they treat everyone equally bad, does that make them better or worse than someone who singles out one specific group of people?

I'm not out to answer that question, since I think most philosophical questions are virtually unanswerable, but thinking about it is probably what sparked the birth of this 'drop-in' character.


Donovan is his name, and he's Jay's cousin. He's described as:


Blood may be thicker than water, but it’s not thicker than bigotry. The guy is a serious asshole. I’d like to say he grew up in a cult compound, had nut-job parents who taught him to fear his own shadow, or maybe blame it on generations of inbreeding, but that’s not it at all.
Donovan is just an ass, but at least he’s equally an ass to everyone. He calls me a homo ‘cause I paint, and calls his dad a redneck, even though my uncle is an accountant of all things. I’ve even heard him call his mom a bitch, right to her face.
I know you can’t choose your family members, but I sure as hell believe you can choose to walk the other way when you see one coming.



...and I honestly have no idea how much 'first-draft' dialogue for this character will make it past my first edit. Writing this character feels SO wrong because I agree with nothing he says, and none of his opinions, to the point where he almost feels like a caricature of what I think sucks in the world.


...but the thing is, a lot of his dialogue is actually based off of things I've heard real people say, often in a casual laughing/joking way... if fact, I've already toned down some of it, but what's there still makes me squeamish.


Anyways, like I said, I'm not out to say I have a definitive answer to the question, but throwing in a character like this at least presents the opportunity for a dialogue on the subject. Addressing a sticky subject is better than ignoring it.

Yet I'm already admitting to toning it down... so, am I avoiding it even while trying to address it?


No matter what, I find it's exercising my ability to write snappy/insulting dialogue, not just on Donovan's end, but Jay & Kell's responses to the stupid things Donovan says.


Have you ever written a character that you disagree with to this point? If you have, what have you chosen: to use that character as an example, or do you write the character true to him/herself and leave it up to the reader to make a moral/ethical judgement?

6 comments:

  1. Donovan is a perfect name - love it. I know people like him!! Your description is wonderful it flows perfectly. It’s a good exercise to write in a character who you totally disagree with. I have one in my WIP come to think of it. And such a character is good for comparison to your others. I believe I have notes from class on the concept. My character remains true to herself but, and I haven’t written it yet, she loses big time

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    1. Should be interesting to read when you do write that character :)

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  2. I like making minor characters like that; it's always fun to write someone with no redeeming characteristics at all.

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    1. Now, the question is... keep him irredeemable, or cut him a break and let him grow a smidgen by the end...

      decisions, decisions...

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Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)