One thing I’ve enjoyed about writing the H&W Investigations series is Shiarra’s growth as a person. She’s become so much more than what she was when she started out. In the beginning she was scared of Others, afraid of accepting those who weren’t like her, and too quick to jump to (the wrong) conclusions.
She’s gone through some hard knocks in this latest book. It’s been a challenge to make my frightened little mouse into a strong, brave person who learns to accept others. More than that, learns to accept herself–warts and all.
Much as I love writing it, I also love reading that kind of character growth. Someone who starts out as a very stalwart “there-is-only-black-and-white-no-shades-of-whatever-in-between” growing to learn how to bend and break around those assumptions is among my favorite tropes in fiction. Mostly, I love seeing a character either A) get knocked off their high horse or B) grow the fuck up.
This realization struck me especially hard considering I recently read three books in a row that featured heroines I wanted to throttle. Don’t ask, because I will not be naming and shaming these DNFs.
To me, it’s boring to read about a character who continually makes the same stupid mistakes, doesn’t learn from them, and/or doesn’t go through any kind of emotional hardship. That, or they fail to change as a person when the circumstances they’ve been through demanded it. A character who can solve all of their problems with the snap of a finger or the wave of a hand is not one I want to read about. The ones who yawn off the apocalypse or express feelings because they’re supposed to–not because they’ve done anything to merit feeling that way about the situation or other person–or who go through a checklist of “should act like this because the textbook says so” aren’t my cup of tea. Even worse are the ones who act completely contrary to how you would expect them to react because the author needs them to do something to serve the narrative.
There are times for bravery, but nothing will piss me off faster than when that bravery is a thin veil to cover a stupid action. Not if it’s not acknowledged as such. Sometimes not even then. The risk must be worth the reward, and they better suffer for their stupidity, damn it.
If the only way to reach their goal is to make the character do something uncomfortable for them on an emotional–not physical or magical–scale, I will eat that up with a spoon. There are few things I love more than reading about a character coming out the other side of a hardship, maybe still a bit raw, but tempered into a different shape and viewing the world through new eyes. Better if they come to realize that they were wrong about something and let go of their false assumptions without clinging to them like a limpet for no good reason other than to drag out the conflict a few more pages.
Make me see that new point of view. Make me believe the character has changed or grown or seen who they really are under the mask they show the world, and I’m your fangirl forever.
What do you think? Agree or disagree?