Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Not all flaws are fatal

I always fall in love with the bad guys. Not in real life (my guy is a good soul) but with characters, mine and other people's. With Ruby Valentine I only truly got a handle on her personality after I'd written in an inappropriate tantrum that showed her off at her selfish, solipsitsic, bitchy best. It was one of the most satisfying scenes I ever wrote. From that point on her words and actions fell into place. And I liked her all the more for it. The temptation when creating characters is to heed the old writing tip of 'making a character sympathetic' too simplistically and forget that it is our flaws that make us human. We relate to characters through their imperfections.

When Harry Met Sally will always feature on my favourite films list, as I feel Harry Burns and Sally Albright are two of the best characters ever to grace the screen, but they are both frustrating, obtuse, neurotic and irritating. He burns, she's all bright. Yet compared to innumerable second-rate romantic comedies, where the characters are as blandly sweet as banana bread, Harry and Sally are beacons of hope and humour in a genre currently drifting at sea, tilting at mediocrity and weak-willed women. He's Just Not That Into You anyone? Similarly Becky Sharp, Emma Bovary, Lucky Santangelo and most every classic heroine that comes to mind is, if not a cast-iron bitch, then certainly rolling their almond shaped eyes in that direction.

Currently my bad guy (or gal) is unmistakably more interesting than my good girl. Which means it's time for my good girl to do something bad...

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