Armchair BEA: Character Chatter

One of the questions on today’s Armchair BEA list is “What are your favourite or least favourite clichés associated with characters?”

Okay, I’m just going to put it out there. I realise that they’re all the rage at the moment, and I recognise that they are interesting from a literary point of view, but I can’t stand unreliable narrators. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I struggle so much to understand subtext and read between the lines in real life. I’m awful at reading body language, and only slightly better at understanding facial expression and tone, at least without a clear context (for example, I can interpret these things much more easily in the context of my job, because I spent three years training to be able to do so). Trying to understand when people are telling me half-truths or recognise when I’ve unintentionally caused offence is very difficult for me.

Spending an entire book puzzling over somebody’s motives and trying to figure out what they’re not telling me is therefore not relaxing. For example, I recently read When Nights Were Cold by Susanna Jones, and although I liked it well enough, the tension and stress associated with trying to read between the lines of every paragraph was unpleasant. This is not the same as being unable to read books which are narrated by unlikeable characters. I can cope okay with that, depending on the book, but I really don’t like being unable to trust the narrative to stay in some sort of reasonable order.

In terms of favourite character clichés… hmm. I do quite like the fierce elderly spinster trope. You know, the one who will tell you off four ways to Sunday if your hair isn’t brushed or your elbows are on the table whilst eating, but then put her in a situation where she’s surrounded by bandits and plague, and she’ll somehow save the world with nothing but hairgrips and gumption. There are not enough examples of this in literature, but I am thinking primarily of Granny Weatherwax from the Discworld books. Would you want to meet her in a dark alleyway? I certainly wouldn’t. (Also, Professor McGonagall is hands-down my favourite Harry Potter character for exactly this reason).

It has to be said I wouldn't want to work with her, though.

Sister Evangelina (Call the Midwife) kind of exemplifies this cliché, at least in TV land. She’s unbearable in the books.

The other topic for today is meant to be “Blogging 101”, but I don’t really feel like I’ve been hanging around long enough to give any sort of advice, so I’ll be reading those posts with interest.

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