Redemptive Character Arcs

Over at BlogCatalog, my favorite place to hang out with other bloggers,they’ve started a new feature where you can create groups and then those groups discuss things.  God, isn’t the internet great for figuring out yet more ways to waste time?

At any rate, one of my favorite bloggers, Vienne of Eavesdropwriter, started a group called Got Character? which is really fun.  We (and by "we" I mean mostly Mark of Hungryghost and I) have been having a discussion about the character arc of Britney Spears.

Brief aside: I am here and now confessing my weakness for Hollywood gossip.  I so wish it weren’t true, but it is.  I love reading Defamer and WeSmirch and A Socialite’s Life, even though I pretend to be way above it all. 

So, because of that I am intimately familiar with the recent downward spiral of Britney (and can I also just say right here that I hate, hate, hate it when parents don’t know how to spell names properly?  It’s Brittany, B—H!)

The discussion has been about Britney as a novel character, and centered on if she would be more sympathetic if all of her troubles had been at the hands of someone else, say an evil husband who took advantage of her and spent her money.   The consensus seemed to be that if she were the victim of someone else and pulled herself up out of her troubles, that would make a better story than if she was the victim of her own actions.

Isn’t that interesting?  Seems to me that in real life, most of us are very good at creating our own messes.  I know I am.  And yet we persist in preferring to blame others for these messes.  It is so much easier to blame someone else than take responsibility ourselves. 

Yet most fiction is the other way around–characters in deep trouble because of the actions of others.  Poor innocent victims!   Maybe it is time we writers started creating characters that echo the real world, who get themselves stuck way up the creek without a paddle, because they forgot it, not because someone stole it from them, and then have a redemptive arc as they figure out how to get back without it.

At least all this gives me an excuse to read the gossip sites. 

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