Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. Today I’m supposed to talk about my most annoying character, but I’m going to alter that slightly to “type.” It’s not any one particular character, but it’s the way that they are portrayed.
Yeah, okay I’m not a fan of Jar Jar either…but let’s not go there.
There’s a particular thing that bugs me about characters. Useless characters bother me to no end. You know the kind. They’re the ones you wonder why the author threw them in the book when they have no bearing on the plot or feel like an add-on just to get killed. They’re there to highlight the pretty world or culture, but don’t do anything except turn into meat shields or make the main characters look more competent than they really are. They’re a pet, a token, a staple. But you feel nothing and every time they show up you skip through that section to get back to the main plot.
Mind you, I have no problem with a red shirt. Yes, sometimes the pawns-to-the-slaughter are necessary, but I like to have an emotional or a vested interest in the character. Adding in a character to be killed without characterizing the meat shield doesn’t horrify or scare me. It tells me very terrible things are happening, but not to anyone I care about.
Sheesh. I feel like I’m not making any sense. Okay, let me try to explain it another way. Take the news for example. Say a tsunami hits. Terrible thing. Bodies washed up on the beach. People starving. Yes, this is an emotional gut punch. Now, watch an interview the little girl who lost her puppy or the grandmother who managed to survive. Right there, I feel something because I identify with them. I may not have experienced their specific pain, but I relate to them. And it sticks.
Does that make sense? Meat shields for the sake of having meat shields doesn’t do anything for me — even if it’s to express the terrors that lurk in the night. I’m not a fan of gore porn or gratuitous violence for the sake of having it, nor am I a fan of exploring setting for the setting’s sake. I like my plots tight and my characters to have a purpose.
Er… Something like that.