Blogger: Etta Wilson
Location: Books & Such office, Nashville
Weather: 65 and spring rain
Do protagonists have greater appeal to readers if they are human, or is it more important that a character simply exhibit some human characteristics? Animal characters abound in children’s books. Beatrix Potter immortalized Peter Rabbit’s disobedience, and Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider certainly played out admirable human qualities of courage and sacrifice in E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.
Writing animal characters in adult fiction is more challenging and is most often seen in short, humorous pieces, but occasionally they are developed well in bonafide novels. It’s hard not be caught up in the suspense and quest of the rabbit characters Hazel, Strawberry, Big Wig, etc. in Richard Adams’s 1975 book Watership Down.
What I notice among recent releases, especially those for teens, is a number of main characters who are quasi-human or aberrations of human behavior. Eternal by Cynthia Smith is a brand new book in which a Dallas teenager becomes a vampire while her guardian angel has been cast from heaven for revealing his angelic nature in an effort to save her. And of course there’s Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, just to name a couple.
It makes me wonder if authors create such characters in response to certain cultural dynamics or turmoil. Maybe, maybe not. Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame appeared early in his career before the French Revolution and his self-imposed exile. On the other hand, Bram Stoker created Dracula, one of the most famous vampire stories of all time, in 1897, and Stoker lived a relatively placid life in Britain at the height of the British Empire.
I’m just beginning to explore this subject. Any thoughts on why and what leads to interest in characters outside the norm?