Friday, February 09, 2007

Rants and Reason

Michelle has a "rant" over on her blog about things that bother her, and I responded in a comment about school related peeves that I have. Some of Michelle's peeves seems pretty unusual to me and that got me thinking about personality and character. In my experience, people's likes and dislikes are so idiosyncratic as to defy understanding. For example, I hate the musical group The Police and every song they, or Sting, have ever written. I dislike their music so much that I turn the radio off or switch stations the instant a Police song comes on. There have been several times when others were in the car with me when I punched the channel change button in the first few seconds of a song and only then found out from my passenger that it was a Police song. I didn't even know it was them and I still hated it. Yet, there are strange people out there who actually like the Police.

Maybe the point of all this is that characters, real or fictional, are as defined by what they dislike as by what they like. And I realize I have never given this as much thought in my fiction as I should have. My characters need peeves. They need something to rant about, and--importantly--it is the more unusual peeves that will tell me the most about them as characters.

Now the question becomes, can I give my characters peeves that I don't share? What if my character doesn't like Z. Z. Top, or *gasp* Black Sabbath? Will I lose all respect for them? How will I ever even speak with them again? How will I be able to resist having them slaughtered quickly by some newly introduced serial killer as punishment for their foolishness?

I guess we'll see.

15 comments:

Danny Tagalog said...

Hi Charles:

Re - David Lanoue - I looked on his site a while back. Very interesting: old Japan is far more interesting than the new and upcoming one as far as I can see.

When time permits, I'll have a good look and buy stuff. But I have projects clouding my forays into new paths right now - when they are cleared... hopefully soon!

Oh, and Black Sabbath - some high schoolers here were talimnh music today and wanted to talk about the merits of Black Sabbath compared with Ratt (!) and Guns n'Roses. I'm not a full on metaller, but you can't beat early Primal Sabbath can you?

The Police? Well, I loved them aged 4 or 5! My father bought me Zenyatta Mondatta after moving house when I was 4 or 5. I loved it but dislike Sting now as he seems false. Never had such an adverse reaction to them like you though. But Coldplay make me a little mad - they seem like careerists who care more about bank balance than creation. They seem to have over-studied in a similar way to The Police. Success came through market study, not through more preferable avenues...

Danny Tagalog said...

talimnh????

talking.

cs harris said...

Interesting, Charles. People ARE defined to a great extent by what they like and dislike, and it is oddly idiosyncratic. But then I wonder, if I create a character who hate, hate, hates something many of my readers love, would I lose them? Perhaps that's why we don't see it much--that attempt to get readers to identify with a hero. It might work better for a less sympathetic character.

Charles Gramlich said...

Danny, Ratt and Guns n'Roses are OK, but cannot compare to Sabbath certainly. Guns n'Roses, or Axel Rose, at least, became pretty full of themselves after the success of their first, and only really good album in my opinion.

Candice, good point. That didn't even occur to me.

Steve said...

I don't mind writing characters who dislike lots of things I'm fond of. Especially tattoos.

Lots of my characters are misguided souls. Who can hold it against them?

But a character who disliked Johnny Cash? Never...

Michelle's Spell said...

I read your teaching rants -- man, I have all of those too! Especially the whining, are we going to do anything important in class today? No, we're going to braid each other's hair is how I usually respond. But I agree -- a person's likes and dislikes really define them. The Police are most certainly in the overated hall of fame. If I ever have to hear every breath you take again, I will scream.

Erik Donald France said...

Charles, right on. Not only a character's peeves, but also tics and mannerisms. Love this stuff, the details of character (and actual people).

JR's Thumbprints said...

My students hate The Police too.

Stewart Sternberg said...

You don't like the Police? To be honest, I'm no fan either.

Regarding giving characters eccentricities...It's something I love to do. In my opinion, it is something that brings them that extra touch.

In the novel I am working on now, or at least will be working on again in a few weeks, as I was writing, these little details about my protagonist started unfolding. I hadn't planned them that way, but once they came out, I kept them. The protagonist, is a big Tigers' fan (okay me too), he one played clarinet for a Detroit Police band called "The Blue Pigs", and he loves all forms of jazz...not big details, and certainly details I can identify with, but I thought they helped define the character.

Kate S said...

I love the little "tics" in characters - gives them depth and richness. Same is true with people. :)

Sidney said...

Wait a minute, where do you come down on "Fields of Gold?" Have you heard that one? It's kind of different from the ones you hate. Though it's quite a bit different from "Black Sabbath" too.

Sidney said...

P.S. I forgot to say that Christine, a child of the '80s, has informed me the Grammys tonight are an appointment because The Police will perform.

I have to confess I was not overwhelmed by The Police back in the day. I'd almost forgotten that, but I can remember being taunted by a self-appointed, cooler-than-thou copy editor in the newsroom because they weren't at the top of my must-listen list.

Lee said...

Came over from House of Sternberg. I don't write but I sure read a lot. I was thinking that if I were to learn that a character really liked the Police, but not the reasons why, it would naturally lead me make some judgements of my own...and I thought that was really interesting. Maybe the reader would subconsciously start to fill out the character in his/her head?

Like, maybe the character is a child of the 80's, like me. Maybe the character grew up with a big crush on Sting and posters on her ceiling. Maybe the character did a lot of coke cuz that's what people did in the 80's....etc.

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for visiting, Lee. Interesting food for thought.

Sid, I don't think I've ever heard "Fields of Gold," or at least I don't know that name. I actuallly only know the "name" of one of their tunes, "Roxanne." I made sure not to watch the Grammys because I feared I might catch a glimpse of the Police.

Clifford said...

It's all about Disco. Seriously.

I grew up as the only Black guy in an all-white community, so I got exposed to soul, r&b, funk, pop, rock, and disco! Back then, the color lines on most radio stations were drawn in indelible ink, so I pretty much gravitated to the middle -- Top 40 music -- where, for some reason, they were unable to pidgeonhole it as "white" music or "black" music. A lot of that is due to disco. Disco was the knight in shining armor -- galooping in and wrenching popular music from the clutches of racist reactionism. But it couldn't last. The disco backlash, I'm certain, was fueled by well-meaning racists.

Oh, and The Police/Sting kick ass! We're gonna need to strap you down, Charles, wire your eyes open, and force you to watch hours of Police/Sting videos while piping in the odor of filet mignon, hot apple pie, and Godiva chocolates. That'll cure ya!