Last week I attended my writers’ group meeting. I enjoy the monthly meetings. We meet at a great restaurant, and I get to schmooze with a lot of intelligent people who love to write. We have a business meeting, and then we have a speaker. This month one of our more prolific members spoke about Character Arcs – the emotional journey a character takes, caused by internal and external conflicts. It was a very informative talk and we all started thinking about the emotional journeys our characters are taking. I guess it makes sense that the more strenuous the journey, the more compelling the story.
After the meeting, did a few chores, and sat down to read. I just got the latest Stephanie Plum adventure from the library (yes, I’m too cheap to buy it!) And then I thought about some comments the speaker made. When a character’s story covers several books, the character’s arc in each individual book tends to be smaller. Especially evident is the lack of character growth in this particular series. Though she always solves the murder mystery, she never resolves her issues with either Morelli or Ranger. It’s hard to believe either one of them still shows any interest in her.
So, does that make me a literary simpleton? Why am I so attracted to a character who remains stuck in the same dead-end job where she gets abused both physically and verbally, where she struggles to earn enough to pay her bills, and where her mode of transportation either gets smashed, stolen, or blown up on a regular basis? What’s so compelling about a female who apparently has what it takes to attract the attention not one, not two, but occasionally three (if you count the mysterious and sporadic appearances of Diesel) sexy men, yet chooses to remain unattached?
The truth is, I love reading about Stephanie and her misadventures. A part of me wants to shake her and say, “You idiot! Why are you running around working for your cousin Vinnie? Why are you and your hamster Rex still holed up in that little apartment, eating your mom’s leftovers, when a hunk like Morelli is pining after you? Marry the guy! Live happily ever after!” But then, of course, Stephanie would be too boring to read about in future books. Part of Stephanie’s charm is her tendency to land in disastrous situations. And the men are attractive because they can be counted on to help her get out of them.
I still enjoy the deeper, more involved stories with the soaring character arcs and dramatic plots. I have to try and write them if I ever want to get a story published. But every now and then, I don’t want to go on an emotional journey – I just want a nice, easy ride, and Stephanie and her friends are perfect for that.
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I was hoping to finish a scarf and hat set this week, but my head is too big, so I have to take the hat apart and make it bigger! Oh, well, maybe next time.