Monday, July 2, 2012

When the Supporting Characters Are More Interesting

We've hit a busy time at work, so I haven't finished Across the Universe yet. A review should be up by the end of the week, though! In the meantime, I'd like to talk about an annoyance of mine which I've experienced in many books. What happens is, I read a book, enjoy it, love the plot and the characters. Then I'll put it down and realize that in the end I understood the supporting characters more than the main character. They have specific traits that are called upon multiple times and you can bring to mind a physical description.

This can not be said of main characters sometimes. Sometimes (this is definitely not all inclusive) the main character is simply a tool of the plot, to watch and respond and move the story between scenes. What causes this? I think it's partly because we don't read many physical descriptors of the main character, unless they are being reiterated by a supporting character. And even then, the reiteration and how it is phrased serves to develop the supporting character. But as for the main character being a tool of the plot, I do not know. Perhaps it is because YA novels are much more action-packed and there is less time for internal reflection. Perhaps it's because we insert ourselves into the place of that character.

What do you think? Or do you even agree?

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting question. I think the first part, regarding the supporting characters, is probably more frequently found in first-person than third-person stories. People rarely say "My brown hair stuck to my forehead from the rain" (they'd say "My hair stuck...") because we don't think of ourselves in descriptors; we just are. But part of our perception of others is definitely the adjectives, which we register sometimes consciously, sometimes subconciously. It's harder to get to know a first-person character, too, for similar reasons - we're looking at both the world and the story through their eyes, and they spend less time thinking about themselves than those around them.

    Regarding being tools of the plot... I'm going to hazard a guess that this probably reflects how the plot items come to occur. If the plot is happening TO them, then yes, they really are tools of it. But if it's happening BECAUSE of them, then it's the other way around. That is, if what happens next is (most of the time) the result of an action or decision by the main character, you can't really say they're a tool of the plot; but if they're not making decisions or taking action, or if it's always some greater external force creating the plot points, not only is this sometimes annoying, but it also makes it look like they're just there to serve the plot.