Things That Will Make Me Hate a Character by Dana Hammer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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Things That Will Make Me Hate a Character

Sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I wind up hating a character I’m supposed to love. This doesn’t mean I hate the book, or that I’ll stop reading it, but it does mean that I will now actively root for this character to suffer and fail. Here are the things —

1) Refusing to use swear words
Unless it’s a children’s book, or this is a person who has been raised in a religious cult, I don’t want my likeable characters to clutch their pearls whenever a “bad word” is uttered. I’m fine with it if it’s a villain (think Annie Wilkes) but if I’m supposed to like the person, I don’t want any irrational prudes.

2) Refusing to read the letter
We’ve all encountered this. The heroine receives a letter from her ex-boyfriend, or her estranged mother, or a mysterious man in a parking lot and SHE DOESN’T OPEN IT. The reasons are always stupid. “It would be too painful.” “I don’t want to hear what she has to say. NOTHING can excuse her behavior.” “It’s probably a scam.” Then she stashes the letter away until a convenient time, when the plot starts to lag, and suddenly she gets the urge to open it. I get that it’s a plot device, and an easy one to use. But I hate any character who’s so dull-minded that they aren’t even a little bit curious about a letter from a former lover.

3) Nursing a terrible, secret guilt that only proves to us how noble and awesome she is.
We read the book, knowing that our heroine is deeply troubled because of something that happened in her past. Something that makes her believe she is unworthy of love, because of how horrible it is. Then, after many chapters of cryptic allusions and hand-wringing we finally discover the truth. She was working in a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless. She gave a piece of candy to a little boy with big sad eyes — and he choked to death! IF ONLY SHE HADN’T GIVEN THE POOR CHILD A PIECE OF CANDY! HOW CAN SHE LIVE WITH HERSELF?

4) Couples who want to be together, but can’t, because…oh, wait, there’s no reason they can’t be together.
This one annoys me. There are lots of reasons why people can’t be in a romantic relationship —they live too far apart, they’re already married, he’s a firefighter and she’s an arsonist. It’s not hard to come up with a reason for people who want each other to be kept apart. But sometimes, the couple just…can’t get their shit together. And that’s not a valid reason, and I will hate them both for their invalid dithering.

5) Kids who only talk about homework and school.
If I’m reading a book, and a child in it talks in tired childhood cliches, I’m done with that child. In any given book, a child may use ONE of these phrases ONCE: homework, soccer practice, late for school, school dance, sleepover, study. (Exception: it’s a kid’s book, and soccer or the school dance is integral to the story.)

6) Writers who are confused by bare feet indoors.
“She walked down the stairs, bare feet padding on the carpet.” “She was cooking in the kitchen, barefoot.” “Her bare feet were propped up on the couch.”

If you’re indoors, you’re supposed to be barefoot. Or at least, it shouldn’t be so abnormal that the writer feels the need to point it out. If the character is barefoot outside, in a snowstorm, OK, that’s weird, and you should address that. But the fact that anyone feels the need to point out that a character isn’t wearing shoes in her own damn house is bizarre and grating.

I guess this isn’t something that will make me hate a character. More just a thing that will annoy me when I read it.

6) Modern characters who unironically call each other “Dear” and “Darling” or “Dearest”.

No one has called anyone “Darling” since 1942.

7) Characters in historical fiction who are waaaay too modern.

This one is super weird. You’ll be reading this book that’s set in 1662, in a rural village in England, and the main character is all “Wait, I can’t be an atheist-feminist-anti-racist-college professor? I’m so confused by this society.” She somehow holds all the currently correct views on things. She is perfectly accepting of gay people, and people from other countries, and people of all religions or lack thereof, and she doesn’t understand why other people aren’t like her. Even though it’s 1662.

I understand that you want the character to be relatable to a modern audience. She doesn’t need to be a total ignorant racist who only likes getting beaten by her husband, but she should have some grounding in her time and place. Unless it’s a time travel novel. Even then, she shouldn’t be totally perplexed by the realities of the past. We all know that the past sucked, and if we were to be sent back into it, we’d have to alter our expectations somewhat.

Anyway, these are a few things that make me frustrated with characters. I’ll still read the book, if it’s good, but I will actively root for these characters to have a terrible end.

Fanny Fitzpatrick has the coolest best friend ever. Athena is smart, and pretty, and brave, and kind. Fanny loves her friend, but sometimes, she feels a little jealous of how perfect Athena is.

But even “perfect” girls make mistakes, and Athena makes a big one when she accidentally turns the school bully into a cockroach. He was picking on their friend Gemma and Athena lost her temper and her magic powers just slipped out right in front of Fanny.

Now Fanny knows that Athena isn’t an ordinary girl – she’s the reincarnation of a Greek goddess, powers and all – and now she needs Fanny and Gemma’s help to hunt down the bully-turned-cockroach and turn him back into a human boy.

Fanny doesn’t want to spend all her time looking for a cockroach. She’s got the Junior Miss Super Pretty Pageant to prepare for, if she can get over her stage fright. Besides, Athena’s Dad, Zeus, has forbidden the girls from meddling with any more cockroaches or magic, and Zeus is a god you don’t want to mess with.

Fanny has to make a choice. Should she pursue her pageant dreams, or risk Zeus’ wrath to find the cockroach-boy? What’s the right thing to do? And how do you hunt down a cockroach anyway?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Normally, when I arrive at school, I’m tired and cold and grumpy, but not today! Because today I’ve got the World’s Coolest Necklace, and everyone’s gonna notice it and give me compliments. It’s a “statement” necklace, and I got it at an old lady’s estate sale yesterday. I was shopping with my best friend, Athena, when I saw it. It was sitting on a dresser, with a bunch of other jewellery, but this necklace was the only one that caught my eye. It’s a large octopus, with jewel-covered tentacles, and two pearls for eyes. I tried it on, and it looked like the tentacles were reaching around my neck, trying to choke me. I’d never seen anything so cool in my life. It was $20, which was more than I had, but luckily Athena was there, and she bought it for me. Athena always has lots of money, because she’s a rich kid, but that’s NOT why I’m friends with her.

Anyway, she saw how sad I was that I couldn’t afford the necklace and she just bought it for me, probably because she has excellent taste and could see what a great investment it would be. She said it was “quirky” and “an interesting piece,” which I happen to know is code for “high fashion”.

My mom said it was “tacky garbage” but she doesn’t know about fashion. She mostly wears gym clothes, even when she’s not at the gym, and she never wears jewelry, except her wedding ring.

About the Author:Dana Hammer is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. She has won over forty awards and honors for her writing, few of which generated income, all of which were deeply appreciated. She is not a cannibal, but she is the author of A Cannibals Guide to Fasting. Dana is also the author of middle grade fantasy My Best Friend Athena which was inspired by a desire to write something her 9 year old daughter could read.

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