I’ve sprained my ankle.
No, don’t all of you send flowers at once. (I like roses and
red gerber daisies, by the way…)
Seems like an innocuous little injury. When I was on the
track team in high school, sprains, aches, pains, torn muscles, skinned knees –
all that was a daily occurrence, nothing to give a second thought to. You iced,
then you taped, and you went on with the show.
But now, well, I’m in actually pain. I’ve got it wrapped, I
have it elevated, I’ve taken some Advil, but that nagging soreness won’t go
away. From hobbling around, the head of my left quadricep muscle is inflamed,
moving into my hip flexor, so now my entire leg hurts. We won’t go into the
visions of blood clots and strokes (hypochondria, anyone?)
And all this got me thinking about my characters, and
readers perceptions of characters.
A while back, a thread appeared on DorothyL about characters
being sick. One or two people got exceptionally vocal about it too, asserting
they hated when a character catches a cold, or hurts themselves. Now, in my
first manuscript, my character had a cold that progressed into a sinus
infection. But here in Tennessee, that’s something that happens to EVERYONE.
The doctors have an esoteric label for it, something not just anyone would have
thought of. The Tennessee Crud.
You catch the Tennessee Crud about twice a year. The docs
shoot you full of Cortisone, give you a Z-pak, Musinex, and some of that nifty
cough medicine with codeine in it, then send you on your way.
Being a relatively naïve young writer, I felt that adding a
bit of realism to my novel was a good thing. So I wrote the Tennessee Crud in,
giving it to my main character, homicide Lieutenant Taylor Jackson, who despite
feeling like absolute sh*t, must work to solve the murders. Serial Killers
don’t seem to care if you have a cold, they just want to make their next kill
and move on with the story.
Apparently, that wasn’t such a good idea. Readers, at least
those who took the time to chime in, HATE when a character falls ill. As they
do street directions, but that’s a whole different beast.
Now, that book isn’t getting published, so I don’t have to
worry about offending any readers. But the dichotomy surprised me. While it
wasn’t a big deal to many readers, to some, it was downright offensive.
I’m curious what the reasoning is behind this feeling. Is it
that you want a main character who’s strong and virile? Is it annoying to be
reminded of your own failings and weaknesses?
As I sit here, nursing my own aches and pains, I think of
poor Taylor, who suffered so mightily (and for no reason) with her cold in the
first book, and feel a little closer to her because she isn’t infallible.
So tell me, what do you think? Can a character’s humanness
get in the way of the story?
Wine of the Week: This wine blew me away. It’s called Taltarni Shiraz, from Australia.
Rich, fruity, beautiful. Highly recommended.
And since Hubby and I will celebrate our 11th anniversary tomorrow, how about some celebration wine? Piper-Heidsieck