Being the football fan that I am, I bet you think I am going to talk about the Super Bowl today. You are wrong. I care not for pro football, though that could change. There was a time when I didn't like sushi. That changed. I used to be Baptist. So, I could take up with pro football, much like I took up with raw fish and the Methodists. But it's not today. Today, I'm going to talk about characters.
Every writer knows that characters have to be likable. It's a given but I've had an epiphany about it, courtesy of my good and lifelong friend, television.
I watch television and plenty of it, though, apart from a little ESPN, I don't turn it on during day. But come prime time, I am there. It's a good thing that I can do two things at once. In this house, there are 47 remotes and much machinery that I do not know the function of. The Guy runs that. I'm smart enough, but why bother? He's got a list of what I like and he makes it happen for me, much like I make pumpkin pie and macaroni and cheese happen for him.
The world at large used to apologize for watching television. Remember those lies?
"I only watch educational programs and the news."
"I only watch a couple of hours a week."
And the biggest lie of all: "I never watch."
Yeah, well. I don't watch game shows, soap operas, daytime talk shows, or reality shows but it's not because I think I'm above it. It's because of the suck in factor. I get sucked in. I get committed. I'm loyal. If I decided I was going to watch, say, "Dr. Oz", I would, by golly, watch "Dr. Oz". Every day. I would record it if I had to be out. I am the sort who watched "Happy Days" even after the shark jump. Okay, I'm not the sort. I am THE person, possibly the only one. Why? Because "Happy Days" was my show and I was loyal. I learned my lesson about reality shows after "Joe Millionaire" and "Amish in the City". Nobody should anticipate an upcoming "Joe Millionaire" episode like it's written on stone tablets.
Consequently, I have found myself continuing to watch some shows (three to be exact, though I'm not going to name them) that I should divorce because I hate the characters. I don't know why I keep watching unless it's because I hope they will all die fiery deaths and I want to see it. Either that or because in the Television Church of Jean, divorce is not allowed.
One of the shows is a sitcom and two are family dramas. Last week, after the sit com, I said to The Guy, "Do you like any of these people?" He thought a bit and named one. He had a point. I kind of liked that guy too, though I think he is the one we are not supposed to like. I brought up the characters on the other two shows. We admitted we hated all of them. They whine, gossip, lie, create high drama, and are generally just mean people with bad morals, worse politics, and pretty faces.
I might stop watching these shows and I might not. I haven't decided but this I do know: It is important that we write likable characters. Television can get away with what a book cannot. It's easy to sit an hour with nattering whiners on the screen, especially if you are working a crossword puzzle or proofreading at the same time. It is impossible to make it through page after page of distaste.
Let's talk about favorite character—the ones you've written and read.
I'll tell you mine at the end of the day.