It’s Tuesday, meaning high time for a crisis, so I want to talk about relatable characters.
I truly believe characters are the MOST important part of a book. Yes! Some bookworms do prefer a good plot and can put up with potatoes leading the narrative. But I’m opposite: you can leave me in a bucket of super-cliche…but make sure I’m wholly in love with the characters and I won’t even mind.
I absolutely live for the moments when a character explodes off the page and is so complex and real and dimensional that I feel like I’ve known them all my life?! Or those really special and amazing books that make you feel like you’re on the adventure. Readers live a thousand lives and THIS IS WHY.
You can experience the world through a hundred perspectives and never leave your room! Which you probably can’t leave your room! Books are blocking the door!
That is not our fault though. Please don’t blame us. The books just appear. They don’t ask.
But, look…here’s what I’ve been pondering lately. Do we gravitate towards characters who are completely opposite to us or ones who are similar?
There are so many pros-vs-cons for this and I’m ABOUT TO HIT YOU WITH A LIST. (I’ll hit you softly though because I’m furiously wild but also very polite because anXieTY.) But it does make me wonder which is better for us to read. Is there a blanket rule for this? If you’re part of a minority experience, does this change who you want to (or should?) read about?
And at the end of the day the answer is always: DOES IT REALLY MATTER JUST READ WAHT YOU WANT. Which is true, yes, but that doesn’t make a blog post and I’m a kettle full of crises so I must share them with you.
- Best thing first…it’s relatable. We can really get into the story because it’s like “I know how that feels!”
- Which is also validating, right?! I can’t say how GOOD it is to read a character doing something and realise you are not alone in that strange thing you do or think or feel.
- If you’re part of a minority, often times it’s this huge comfort to read about others who go through what you do. Because your experience is NOT common. And therefore it can feel isolating! I mean this can go for anything to sexuality, illness, disability, mental health, religion, gender identity, poverty, or whether you can burst into flame.
- For me, not everyone knows what it’s like to live with severe anxiety, so when I find a book that REALLY GETS IT — I just feel super understood.
- Even if it’s not a minority experience, but just SOMETHING you’ve had happen in your life! Homeschooling for instance! Or moving to another country! Going through a messy and difficult family experience. A romantic breakup. Dealing with grief. Working your little brain out to achieve something. WHEN YOU DROP YOUR TOAST AND IT LANDS JAM SIDE DOWN AND YOUR LIFE IS RUINED.
- Also personalities: it is just GOOD to read about a character who reacts to things like you do.
- Oh is this character a Slytherin??? RELATE.
- Depending on the genre, the book might take an experience you relate to — add in dragons and vorpal blades — and bam, wow, this is what you needed from life.
- It’s just good to pick up a book and say, “YA THAT CHARACTER IS MEEEEEE”.
- Although the flip-side of this all is: sometimes you want to escape to a new world, new people. I mean we read a book to have an adventure, right?? Sometimes when things are to similar to our lives it’s frustrating. (For instance, I know what it’s like to see gross amounts of sexism. When I read, sometimes I want AWAY from that. I don’t care if it’s relatable…I want a world where it isn’t happening so I can have a break.)
So let’s talk about THE FLIP SIDE.
- When it comes to reading, one of the best things is you can “walk around in someone else’s shoes for a while”. Life is very narrow and boring if we only live by our perspective. And it’s also kind of problematic to avoid learning other perspectives???
- You learn empathy for things you’ve never experienced. This can be ridiculously crucial, I can’t even express how much. Like I grew up very very sheltered and, not even joking, I thought racism was a thing of the past until I was in my mid-teens. Reading has opened my eyes so much. I’m not saying POC authors should write books to educate white people! But the fact is, I can read these books. I can listen. I can do better.
- That goes for EVERY minority experience.
- Even ones I’m in! Like my experience with, say, autism, isn’t everyone’s experience. So when I read #ownvoices narratives, I learn a lot still.
- ALSO IT’S REFRESHING TO NOT BE STUCK AROUND YOU FOR A WHILE.
- Books are great escapism, we shalt not lie. I’m actually a really shy person and have a resting-glare-face because I’m just suspicious of the world. Then I pick up a book with a really bubbly and dynamic character who EXPLODES off the page with sheer shenanigans?! AND I LOVE IT. I want this 1000 x because it’s refreshing and different.
- Although that can backfire…I’ve read characters who are very very different personality wise to me and DO – NOT – CONNECT.
- It can literally be such a disconnect that I end up pushing the book to the very edge of the world and being ok if it falls off.
- When I end up disliking a book, I do feel 80% of the reason will be the characters. I didn’t connect. Couldn’t relate. Didn’t like them. And I think this happens more with characters who are opposite to you than similar. It’s like a 50/50 chance of = “will I learn from this experience” or “would i prefer to read about a tub of vegemite than this whining noodle”.
Obviously BOTH is good and we should definitely make sure we read it all!
But if you look at your favourite of ever books…what’s more common?! Relatable characters or ones who are pretty dissimilar to you? Which do you naturally prefer to read about??