Thursday, July 14, 2011

How far is too far?

Full disclosure: this post is cross-posted at Romancing The Muses and Three Wicked Writers Plus Two for two reasons…1) I'm really curious about responses to this topic and want to get the most opinions possible…and 2) my bloggy brain has gone radio silent and honestly couldn't squeeze out two topics this week! I'll be back to my usual form next week, I hope.

Now to my post…

Me obstinate? Noooo way. Never. I mean, I'm not so stubborn that I'll do something that would increase my chances of failure just to say I did. That would be silly.

That would be me.

I like writing about characters with issues. Not too surprising, really, because I think most of us do. Where's the fun in crafting perfect characters? (Though I used to do just that in high school, when I'd had enough of my own imperfections, thank you very much, so at least my heroine could have a three inch waist and a gorgeous, flawless man who hung on her every word.) But along with creating imperfect characters, sometimes your characters aren't just quirky-cute-off. Sometimes they're wholesale screwed up…or make very screwed up decisions. Which is all well and good, if by the time they get on the page they're mostly sorted out…or you're writing a genre that's not romance. Meaning, if the hero/heroine sleeps with someone who's not their BIG LOVE people won't want to kill you.

I've been told my heroes sometimes don't seem heroic right away. I tend to like hard-edged guys, and while they definitely grow and change and soften a bit, the first time they show up they're likely to be…well, not necessarily nice. I've tried to smooth down some of their edges. I really have. But I butt up against that age old adage that if your hero isn't heroic, no one will want to spend time with him to wait for him to grow and change. But…waaah! I like my guys rougher. I like their conflicts to be closer to life. Guys sometimes screw up (as do women, but I know many women who read m/f or m/f/m romance pay more attention to the guys) and sometimes those screwups are HUGE. The point is whether they learn and get better afterward…at least to me.

In my latest release, the hero is faced with a decision I've been told has given some angst to readers. Understandably, because if I were reading it, I'd feel the same. When you bond with a heroine - when you become her in a sense - the hero making a choice that potentially will harm her hurts. So how far do you go in staying true to the character? Do you go all the way, balls to the wall (excuse the expression, but it fits in this case) or do you pull your punches, knowing you may piss some people off? It's a tough choice and I'm sure the answer will be different for every writer.

A couple of my heroines have also been called on the carpet for not being nice. I like trying to redeem characters, and I also need to keep myself entertained and engaged by writing characters with the full complement of emotions and flaws. Some deliberate too much. Some angst. Some are recovering narcissists. I can't keep writing the same character slightly tweaked, even if I know she may be more well-received. I'd get bored that way, as would my readers. And some people have enjoyed those more complicated heroines, so I guess it's truly a matter of what you prefer. As a reader myself, I love characters with flaws as big as their strengths...and occasionally even bigger. Watching them wrestle with their dark side and ultimately win is hugely satisfying to me.

I'm curious…as a reader are there things you just won't accept? In a romance, for example, if the hero/heroine sleeps with someone else after he's started to fall for the hero/heroine is that a dealbreaker or does it depend on circumstances? And writers…how far will you/won't you go in the pursuit of telling your story the way you think it needs to be told?

I'm looking forward to hearing your answers! And I apologize for the cross-post…I'm planning on being more bright-eyed and blog-inspired next week!


Sharon said...

I don't think I could take a heroine that forgave rape or physical violence to her or anyone else. Cheating wouldn't bother me if it fit the story. I like dark UF/PNR and beloved characters die in those as well as making bad decisions. I might cry and cuss, but the story is what it is and I just go with it. One example is The Sign of the Zodiac Series by Vicki Pettersson. My gosh, she was brutal to her heroine. Another example is The Hunger Games. Holy Crap! that poor girl, and I still don't feel like she got a HEA.

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