Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rage

Most of us try to be nice and decent and polite, but we're human. You never know what's going to set us off.

I have the cutest cat. She's been Daddy's Baby since Day One, and slept on his chest for at least half of the first year she joined our family. She rolls over on her back every time you go near her, purring to be petted. She crawls under the covers and sleeps with you. She's kind and gentle. Even though she's four, she carries around her toys like they're her teddy bears.

And then just yesterday, after four years of being the sweetest, most submissive cat, she snapped.

Our baby has spent the last two days terrorizing Moo-Boy, who is three times bigger than her. She has chased him all over the house, making the loudest sounds we've ever heard her make. Even when they're sitting around and relaxing, Daddy's Baby is staring at him and growling under her breath.

She is thoroughly PISSED. Livid. Beyond reason. I suspect, if she could pick up a knife, she would stab him to death. She SEEKS him out, just so she can growl at him and terrorize him.

The best guess we can make is that Moo-Boy (our cat that looks like a cow) slept in her spot. Or perhaps, as the veterinarian suggested, Moo-Boy did something that Daddy's Baby took the "wrong way."

Whatever, but to see her, you'd think Moo-Boy killed her first-born son.

(Here's where I pretend this is about writing. Oh! And about humans, too.)

I'm so touched when an author approaches characters with honesty, allowing them to be human and unlikable at times. I'm all for being positive and being nice, but the fact is, we all turn into raving lunatics at time, and often for the silliest of reasons.

What I wonder, is why reasonable, even-keeled people go nuts with rage? And I also wonder how an author makes a character real with human weaknesses, and still likable?

Sometimes I read authors allowing their characters un-PC or ugly habits, and their honesty truly touches me. I don't know why. Maybe it's just nice to know I'm not the only one in the world who is imperfect, LOL.

15 bonus scribbles:

Anissa 2/13/2007 07:03:00 PM  

Love the action shot of the kitty. I can just see her in motion!

I struggle with the same things you mentioned. My protagonist has done a few things that are totally realistic, but I catch myself thinking, "Is this going to make her unlikable?" In the end, I can only be true to her character. And like us all, she does things of which she's not proud.

spyscribbler 2/13/2007 07:11:00 PM  

I totally understand, Anissa. I can't quite put my finger on why, but sometimes it can be done in a way where I end up feeling touched. That honesty seems so beautiful.

I'm not much of one for what's called bitch lit, but a few touches of honesty in a character strikes me as brave of the author. And compassionate.

The Dark Scribe 2/14/2007 12:13:00 AM  

When I was in high school, this somewhat dorky kid (no, not me, so just shut it) I'll call Joey lost it. I mean, he was dorky, but normal. Did his homework, had friends, did well in school, probably played some sports. Anyway, this hockey-player jock was teasing Joey in the choir room one day. From what I heard, it wasn't anything that serious. Just a little prodding because he was bored or something.

So Joey stands up, walks across the room, grabs a solid brass trophy off the piano, walks back to the hockey player, and brings the trophy down on the hockey player's head. Joey bludgeons him a few more times, wordlessly strolls back over to the piano, and places the now-bloody trophy back where he got it.

Hockey player survived. Barely.

If you'd read about Joey in a book, you'd probably start thinking of those psychotic kids from Columbine, and you'd probably dislike Joey. But he wasn't like that. He was just a normal guy who finally snapped.

It's really hard to show an otherwise normal person snap without risking backlash from the reader, but when it's done successfully, it's pure magic. We've all had "Joey" moments (although hopefully none of us have gone quite so crazy with rage), and capturing them in your protagonist can solidify his or her reality in the reader's mind.

Anyway, great post.

Liz Wolfe 2/14/2007 12:58:00 AM  

I think we tend to like people who are vulnerable in some way. Maybe it's because we are all vulnerable in some way so we connect on that level. I can't connect at all with characters who are perfect in all ways all the time. The same theory goes for the villain, I believe. Give me a villain that isn't all bad. Give me some understanding of why he might be doing what he's doing.

Bernita 2/14/2007 08:39:00 AM  

Think it works best when the character knows they are being a bitch, a jerk or whatever, and feels guilty/puzzled/appalled by it.

spyscribbler 2/14/2007 08:55:00 AM  

Oh my god, Dark Scribe. Wow, that's ... I don't know. Kind of terrifying. Teasing because of boredom isn't exactly humanity at its best, if I remember how important social standing was in high school. Definitely not bludgeon-worthy, though. It's sadly fascinating what we humans do to each other.

Oh Liz, that reminds me of my favorite villain of all time, Sloane in Alias. I've never liked a villian quite as much as I did him.

Bernita, good to remember. Very good to remember!

Liz Wolfe 2/14/2007 10:43:00 AM  

YES!!! Sloane is the BEST villain. I loved hating him.
Bernita, you've hit it right on the head. It's the character's reaction to their own action that make a huge difference.

Kate S 2/14/2007 11:39:00 AM  

I'm not even going to pretend this is about writing or humans. ;)

I love the cat story! Let us know if she ever forgives him. :)

Avery 2/14/2007 01:34:00 PM  

I have a cat that lives in that perpetual state. He waits until the kittens are sleeping and slaps them as hard as he can. It's not that they did anything -- he's just mean.

I had the opposite issue with my protagonist. She's a twenty-two year-old punk, ex-drug user who mooches off her mother while refusing to do anything productive with her life. There's so much about her to dislike that I've had to work to make the first few chapters balanced enough so that the reader doesn't hate her right off and want to put the book down. It's a tough juggling act -- not giving away too much of why she's the way she is too soon, and keeping her bad attitude in enough check so the reader will want to stick around to find out.

StarvingWriteNow 2/14/2007 01:47:00 PM  

It could be that he pissed her off. It could be some weird "hormone" thing--after all, we all know men and women are incompatible at the best of times... :)

Have you had Moo Boy checked out lately? Sometimes, if an animal is sick or something the others will start treating him differently. I don't know if the sick one sends off a different scent or what, but I've seen it happen. I don't want to scare you or anything, but the thought occurred as I was reading your post.

Anyhow, stay warm!

Holly Kennedy 2/14/2007 05:12:00 PM  

I love your cat snapshots. I'm a big-time cat lover (had four, two passed away from old age and I'm now down to two).... :(

Re: characters, I agree with Bernita. I think to make them real and flawed is important, which means they aren't going to be likeable all the time. None of us are, and yet I believe what draws readers to a good story is a character who grows and strives to be better -- a balance of sorts.

spyscribbler 2/14/2007 08:57:00 PM  

LOL, Kate! I thought I was about to write you that all was well, but it isn't. *sigh* I guess we wait for a few more days.

Oh wow, Avery! That's a mean cat! Daddy's Baby is the sweetest, daintiest cat. This is WAY out of character for her. And your character sounds like a fun challenge to write!

Aww, Holly, I'm sorry about your two cats! I think you're right about the growing.

spyscribbler 2/14/2007 08:58:00 PM  

starvingwritenow, those are good thoughts. We called the vet, but since Daddy's Boy is treating the other cats just fine, and the other cats are treating Moo-Boy just fine, we thing they had a fight. Gosh, I don't know what could have caused Daddy's Boy to go nuts like that!

Kate S 2/15/2007 05:52:00 PM  

Gosh, I don't know what could have caused Daddy's Boy to go nuts like that!

Maybe Moo-Boy said Daddy's Baby's thighs were getting fat. ;)

spyscribbler 2/15/2007 06:05:00 PM  

LOLOL ... you made me laugh with that one! If only I'd known, I'd made sure he picked her up a great Valentine's gift!