Tag: character development

Where in the World is Stargirl’s Character Development?

If you take away the clothes and the ukelele and the pet rat, just who is Stargirl Caraway? Well as I moved through the book I couldn’t help but get this sort of weird vibe from the book and from Stargirl herself. She seemed like a character of impossibilities. She’s amazing and effervescent and so unafraid to be herself. What is it exactly that someone as wild and free as Stargirl sees in Leo? That’s when the four words popped into my mind. Manic. Pixie. Dream. Girl.

Originally, film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term in 2007 and defined it as someone, usually female, who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” This sounds par for the course within Stargirl. However, since the term has been denounced by many people, including Rabin himself, I’ll hold back on calling Stargirl a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Instead, I’m going to ask a series of questions because I feel like something big was missing from the book. Namely, much of her character development.

Like I mentioned before, what exactly does Stargirl see in Leo? Looks aside, we the reader, don’t get much insight into Stargirl’s thoughts. While one can argue that the book is told in Leo’s point of view, there are actually a number of chapters in which Leo isn’t actually present in the narrative. That said, there truly could have been a number of chapters in which the readers are given the chance to learn more about Stargirl and see her thoughts. The closest we get to that is when Leo goes to visit her at her home and sees her Happy/Unhappy Wagon and that just barely scratches the surface of her character.

On the opposite side of the coin, why exactly does Leo like Stargirl? Once again, yes she’s cute but she’s also very eccentric. This is something he’s known from the very beginning. This is something that made him feel uneasy even before The Shunning occurred. Stargirl, in all her costumes and wild mannerisms, is the most outgoing of the duo and when people begin calling him “Starboy” he begins to feel uneasy. Yes, this is a book involving high school students but why does this bother him so much? What is mind blowing to me is that Leo, who was initially attracted to her because of how different she was compared to the girls at MAHS wants her to change to become more like the girls at MAHS. If that’s the case, I ask once again, why does Leo like Stargirl?

Moving away from the LeoStargirl/StargirlLeo relationship, what else do we really know about her? What are some of her short term goals? How does she want to spend her time at MAHS? She’d been home schooled for all these years so what’s her reaction to becoming part of a student body? Can we as readers get more insight into her friendship with Dori? What are her long term goals? How does she know Archie? Even when it’s established that Archie and Stargirl knew each other, Leo doesn’t even bother to ask how and why they know each other. As a result, we don’t know much about Stargirl.

All of these questions are ones that would have been answered if Stargirl were better developed. It feels like she’s the literary equivalent of “Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield which, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song but like an album, a person is made up of more than one song. I get it, Stargirl is a generally weird/happy person. But what else? We know about Leo, we know about his friends and his work as a director on Hot Seat. The point is, we got through this whole book and we don’t know who Stargirl is and that, to me, is more than a little disappointing.

I’d really love to know what you all think about Stargirl, both the book and the character so feel free to share your comments down below!

Thanks and happy reading!

-♥Jq

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Character Presence or Lack Thereof

Some characters are courageous and we as readers want to follow them along on their journey. Other times they’re smart and we admire their wit and tactical prowess. Other times they’re completely absent from the present narrative but still have an effect on other characters. This can fill us, the reader, with a sense of longing, suspense or maybe even fear.

Maybe like Lily from Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, a character in your current project has lost someone important that they never had the chance to meet. Not only does Lily feel guilt when thinking about her mother, Deborah, due to the hand she had in her death, she spends a portion of the novel lamenting the things she wasn’t able to do because she didn’t have her mother. These thoughts have been with Lily for quite some time but they come to a head as she begins to enter adulthood. This, along with the scene of her cuddling her mother’s memorabilia in the field helps the reader understand just how deep Lily’s longing for her mother runs.

On the opposite end, Scott in David Lubar’s Sleeping Freshman Never Lie, is faced with someone who has yet to come into being. His constant letters and references to his future sibling showcase his nervousness and actually betray his excitement at the prospect of becoming an older brother. As much as Scott may gripe about the changes his future brother caused, he shares his mistakes, fears, heartbreaks, and victories with Sean despite the workload and chaos that comes with his freshman year of high school.

In both of these instances, a person who isn’t there in the present is still a character, revealed through the thoughts and actions of other characters. Debora is made more real through her connection with Lily, T. Ray, May and August, just as Sean is made more real through the actions Scott and his family take to prepare for him. When developing characters, try to think of their relationships with those yet unseen. Our courageous hero is on a quest to defeat the big bad? You can ratchet up suspense through the dialogue and actions of the people your hero meet.

If you’re stuck, I would encourage you to check out these books and see in what ways the authors choose to characterize those who have already passed or those who have yet to come into being. Whether you decide that you want to follow the same plan as either one of these books, create your own, or realize that past/future characters are unimportant, I hope you have a great time writing.

Until next time,

-♥Jq

Geek High: A Writer’s Thoughts

I mentioned in my review of Piper Banks’ Geek High that I initially had a different understanding of it when I was younger. To a younger Jq, Geek High was a modern spin on Cinderella which is part of the reason why older Jq was so disappointed.

From memory, the climax of this book was completely different. Miranda’s knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time kicked in and she mentioned that it was weird how Peyton never ate anything, probably at a dinner party or something similar. Her father pulled her aside and mentioned that he’s been helping Peyton recover from an eating disorder and as a result, he says she isn’t allowed to go to the Snowflake Gala. Miranda after all her hard work is genuinely disappointed. Peyton, realizing how hard Miranda worked on the Gala, comes to Miranda’s room, they talk, get to know one another a little better and Miranda gets permission to go.

Personally, I believe that this ending would have been more fulfilling because it shows that Miranda is a flawed character. Yes, you could argue that Miranda’s foot-in-mouth-edness gets her into trouble with Dex, but were there really any consequences? I’m not saying that my suggested ending is amazing but my point is that authors shouldn’t be afraid to let their characters suffer a little bit as it can promote growth and inspire change.

If you were to tell me that Miranda experienced character growth because she made up with her mother and father and became a little friendlier with Hannah, I won’t disagree with you there but I thought that her two biggest conflicts were with Felicity and more importantly Peyton. Had the book addressed this maybe we as an audience could have seen Miranda grow more as a character. Granted, this is a book series and, as such, there is time for Miranda to develop a relationship with Peyton and put her feud (if you could really call it that) with Felicity to rest but it would have been nice to see some of those steps taken in this installment.

-Jq

The Selection: A Writer’s Thoughts

It has been said time and time again: to be a great writer, one must first be a great reader. If that’s the case each and every book we read should not only entertain but it should also be a learning experience. That said, what exactly could we learn from reading The Selection?

Well, one issue I had with The Selection was characterization. The Selection has a huge cast, with a whopping 55 named characters*. While it wasn’t hard to keep track of who was who, I kind of wondered what was the point of having all of these characters? Was it really necessary to include America’s aide who helped her to the airport for that one chapter? Were Aspen’s twin sisters even necessary? His little brother was just used as a tool to show how terrible Illea was and to explain why Aspen worked so hard.

Perhaps if some of these roles were eliminated and/or combined, there would be more time to develop some of the other girls in the selection or focus more on world building. I get that at its core this series is America and Maxon’s love story, however, I think it would have been a lot more interesting if we had a sense of competition. I’m not saying that I would have wanted each and every girl to be fleshed out, especially since they’re going to be written out anyway, but there are certainly ways to quickly inject personality and life into characters.

If you’re a writer who has a project with a huge cast of characters, I’d definitely recommend giving this a read. Just as I have certain things that I would change in this book, I’m sure you do as well.

*I tried to be as accurate as possible with all the named characters but I am worried I missed a few. Also, characters who had titles instead of names, like The Queen of Swendway, were included in my count.