Friday, April 26, 2013

Wormtail is the key…


There’s been a lot of talk about strong characters lately, and I’ve been seeing some confusion about the word character. It has multiple meanings depending on how it’s used, and while I’m not the most qualified person to talk about this, I definitely feel like it’s time.

Character can mean an individual in a work of art. You can have characters in plays, books, paintings, etc.

Character can also mean a trait of a person. For instance to have strong character means that you have a strong morals, or you’re not afraid to do the right thing versus the easy thing.

You can also have a strong character in a book. This would be a character who has been defined so well that the reader knows exactly how they should behave. Strong characters make choices that impact their lives and the lives around them. Strong characters do things.

And here’s where things get screwy, you can have a strong character with weak character. I know, that line there looks a little crazy, but it’s true. Example: Wormtail.

Wormtail is the quintessential strong character with weak character. We know Wormtail, we know what he is capable of, and he makes choices that impact the world around him. His choice to frame Sirius has a major impact on the books, and Sirius’ life. That’s how he is a strong character.

But Wormtail has weak character. He’s not very good with right and wrong, and many of his choices are about doing what’s easy rather than what’s right. His moral compass doesn’t exactly point north, if you get my drift.

So yeah, try not to confuse the two. And internet, I wouldn’t mind if we could stop arguing about Bella Swan and whether she’s a strong character or has strong character. I don't have anything against those books, I'm just tired of people arguing over them. Thoughts?

11 comments:

  1. Great example! Harry potter always has some example that I can use to improve my writing :)

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    1. Harry Potter is pretty amazing when you look at it.

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  2. LOL. Great way to illustrate it, and so well put.

    Ahem, but who can resist the temptation of ripping on sparkly vampires? I mean, when does that EVER get old?

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    1. Yeah, I know, sparkling vampires are definitely the low hanging fruit of the "is this any good." I'm just asking the internet to push itself and find something more challenging...

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  3. I agree with you on all counts. The whole Twilight thing annoys me too. The books were sold in the millions, but now it seems fashionable to criticize the series.

    Yes, there were things that were wrong with the series. And I wouldn't write something like that. But the point remains that someone wrote the book and deserves a bit of respect for that. I mean really. It's been years.

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    1. I always try to remind people that no matter how good or bad a book is, it's been worked on and hard. They don't just flop these things around, they represent many hundreds, sometimes thousands of hours of work.

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  4. I have never read the Twilight books, so I won't be doing any arguing. And I totally agree about Wormtail.

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    1. Wormtail is such a perfect example of this I had to use him.

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  5. Great example, and thanks for clearing things up, because honestly I was getting tired of strong characters that are defined by how well they wield a sword but not their wits.
    So, by your definition, could a strong character actually be weak willed?

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    1. Yes, a strong character can be weak willed, but they (by definition of being weak willed) do not have strong character. The confusion comes from the way people use the word character. Because character can be synonymous with strong morals (good or bad, mind), the confusion persists.

      The thing that's been bugging me specifically is everyone arguing over whether Bella Swan is a strong character. She is. Does she have strong morals or strong character... that's debatable. I say this because she knows what she should do, and she often ignores it. If she had strong character, then she would do what she knows she should do. That's the difference.

      She's a strong character because she does make choices and she does change the world around her with those choices. And I really wish we could find something new to argue over. Like is it right for Hollywood to go around resurrecting all these old franchises without giving the same treatment to my personal favorite, Ninja III?

      Yeah, I don't think it's fair either...

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    2. Cool, I thought that might be what you were getting at.
      I think people argue about Ms. Swan because everyone knows the story. Kinda like using Star Wars as an example for stuff-- except that Star Wars is about a million times more interesting!

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