By Julie Daines
Sorry I'm late getting my post up today. I've been at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference basking in the greatness of Martine Leavitt.
I watched a movie recently with a main character so self absorbed and self pitying I could barely make it through the film. She had a great husband and nice friends who loved her and wanted her to be happy, but she couldn't find "inner peace and balance." So, she breaks her husband's heart by divorcing him to go in search of herself.
After traveling the world on a trip of selfish indulgence, she finally learns the great lesson in life--sometimes you have to lose balance to find balance. Suddenly, she is now capable of love. Whaaaat?
I kept waiting for her to have a change of heart and really learn something about priorities and happiness, especially when she sees kids eating garbage out of the gutter in a third-world country. But no. She's too busy struggling to forgive herself for the huge mistake she made when she married this really awesome and devoted husband. Then she ... Well, I should probably stop there. All I'm saying is that I hated this character.
Anyway, it made me wonder about main characters, and how to give them flaws and shortcomings, but still make them likable.
I think Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett O'Hara is a masterful example. She's kind of a despicable, selfish person and easy to hate, but somehow, she gets under our skin. We love her anyway and want her to be happy, but at the same time, when she gets what she deserves, there is a sense of justice.
Another great example is Harry Potter. He's far from perfect--sometimes selfish, judgmental, not the brightest kid--but his kind heart, sense of humor, and desire to do good despite his mistakes make him lovable.
How do we find the balance?