Monday, June 14, 2010

Why are all these books written by writers?

Ever notice how many main characters are shy? How many find solace in reading? How many want to be writers?

Writers aren't all the same, obviously, but many of us have certain qualities, particularly that last one. And it seems many of us tend to stick our own traits into stories, either deliberately or by default. As a young reader, I enjoyed being able to relate to so many characters; a lot of my own favorites have these quasi-Mary Sue tendencies. But somewhere around fifth or sixth grade, I picked up a now-forgotten book whose main character mentions that she'd rather watch TV than read, and I thought, "Wait, that's wrong... but why should it be wrong?" Suddenly, it seemed unfair that only frequent readers got to see themselves in books.

I think the canon as a whole has gotten better at depicting kids who have other interests, but it's still something we as writers need to keep in mind. Of course we should show some shy kids, and it's hard to resist giving one's main character a favorite book. But if I were a kid who felt iffy about reading, and all the main characters I encountered insisted that reading and writing were the Best Things Ever, I imagine I'd feel that I didn't belong in this book world.

I have no interest in keeping this club exclusive, and I doubt anyone else does, either.


  1. It is interesting that most hesitant readers visit the sci-fi or fantasy section of the library first, a place where book interested main characters are few.

    But if book loving characters become sparse those book loving readers will become excluded. Just because they already enjoy the act of reading does not mean that they should not get contemporary characters that mirror themselves.

    What is cool is that as a writer one is no longer limited to catering to a certain 'type' of child since, culturally, we are accepting less stereotypical plots and characters as literary.

  2. There are a lot of comics about cartoonists, too. And I've seen a lot of writers/cartoonists get around this by writing characters who are creative in a different way--an artist or musician or whatnot, so they can relate to the creative nature of the character without having it be too direct a correlation. But I think there are enough books about different kinds of kids popping up to keep everyone who wants to be involved involved. Along with reading a lot of the same books that you loved as a kid, I was really into this (pretty cheesy in its own way) series of sports novels. There wasn't much talk of reading in those.