Don't Undermine Your Characters

Have you removed a character's defining strengths? Not in a character development sort of way, but over a long period of time so your previously awesome character is suddenly helpless and weak?

My main character has had a slight degredation and I'm editing her awesomeness back into book two.  I'm remembering to show she's changed from who she was at the start of the first book, but not to the extent that she's a different, less interesting character.  I think it's a really good sequel lesson for all of us sequel/continuation writers to remember.

The best (or worst, I suppose) example I can think of, GEORGE, is Padme's decline into a whiny, weak pregnant woman in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  Just... just... ARGH! Padme went from RULING A PLANET to dying of a broken heart in such a whiny way I just did not care.  NOT COOL.

...ahem.  Sorry.  It still upsets me. And we will not speak of the Blu-Ray versions, okay? Good.

Move along.  Move along!

It's really frustrating for a reader to see a character go from leader to wreck without a really, really, really good reason. 

REALLY GOOD.  NOT PREGNANCY.

By undermining a character's strengths, you're damaging their personality and probably upsetting that character's fans.  Remember, those strengths are the reason your readers picked up the book to begin with.  Even if your character suffers a tragedy, some spark of who they were before has to remain.  Even if it's something as tiny as a look in the eyes, don't destroy everything that made your character brilliant.

Do you ever worry about this when you write long, continuing stories?

Comments

  1. Ah yes, the dreaded trope of "Chickification." It's when a former "Action Girl" is brought down to nearly "Damsel in Distress" levels, so that the "Action Hero" can seem more active/heroic. Like you said, it's a very sad, not to mention rather patronizing, occurrence.

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  2. George, George, George... *bangs head against desk*.

    In his defence though, it wasn't just Padme he ruined. I mean, all those year s of wondering what it was that drove Anakin to the dark side, and it turns out it was because he was a whiny teenager who didn't get his own way.
    Um, okaaaay.
    (Puts inner nerd away for a moment)
    Great post though, and fantastic points! Awesome characters must retain their awesomeness!

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  3. Well said! Staying true to your character through multiple books can be a difficult task. I've had to go back and do some tweaking on certain characters myself. Thanks for the great post!

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  4. Athena: Ah, the joys of TV Tropes ;) But you're right to call it patronising and frustrating.

    Jen: I think it's best to pretend the prequels don't exist. Glad you liked the post though ^_^

    Lindy: Thank you!

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