PLEASE, SIR, DON’T HURT ME
HOW TO KEEP YOUR MAIN FROM BEING A BULLY
So I am currently reading like 4 or 5 books. One of these is an audio book, and I won’t give you the name, though I am greatly enjoying the book.
One scene struck me as…laughable, but sad. The main character, who is in his twenties (we’ll came him Dean), is writhing on the ground in pain as this nine-year-old girl is touching him with this powerful rod that is literally draining every ounce of strength from him, and the pain is unbearable.
The little girl is laughing and scowling at him, and she’s demanding that his head be chopped off — typical princess brat type. Well here’s where it gets interesting. The author says that Dean finds some strength within himself that he did not know was there. And what does Dean do? Does he slap her? No. Does he shove her to the ground? No. What, I ask you, does he do? Read on.
Dean rises to his feet and rams his boot into the princesses’ jaw, cracking the bones, knocking her teeth out, and severing her tongue. It’s much more vivid than that, but yeah…you get it.
So I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at this for one reason: Dean is dangerous, and he must be stopped. When Dean kicks this girl in the face, he has lost his boyish hero status, and he has become a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t ever do that! We should be more meticulous about our writing, because we don’t want to create situations where our main character can been seen as a bully. I know we want to show a surge of emotion in our mains, we want to show the heat-of-the-moment reactions, and we want to show the immediacy, but in the end, there are things that the main character just can’t do, and if he does those things, then he needs to have some slither of remorse racing through his veins.
If he doesn’t, then we are in danger of creating a monster. Does a main always have to be Superman Noble? Of course not. Your main will make bad decisions, he will have faults, and he will have regrets, but that’s just it. He must have regrets. There’s nothing cool about kicking a nine-year-old girl’s face in; I don’t care what she’s done.
This is our opportunity, as writers, to become more creative in our approach on how we get this nine-year-old back. But simply hauling off and knocking the fool out of her is just not going to cut it.
Think of your story. Are there moments when you should probably scale back the main’s reaction to a situation? Does your daughter choke her grandmother? There are times when the envelope needs to be pushed, and there are times when it just needs to stay where it is.