Feature and Follow #203-20: I’ll have a side of middling character development, please.

Posted on May 30, 2014 «
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It’s time for Feature and Follow Friday! Don’t forget to checkout the featured bloggers on Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.com.

This week’s question: How important is good writing to you? In an ideal world, a book would be beautifully written AND have great character development, plot, etc. But in the real world, which do you prefer: (1) Great characters and plot with lousy writing or (2) Middling character development and plot but gorgeous writing?

Oh, boy, this one is a tough one. I prefer middling character development with gorgeous writing. Why? Well, let’s look at the definitions of gorgeous and middling, shall we?

gor·geous [gawr-juhs]
1. splendid or sumptuous in appearance, coloring, etc.; magnificent: a gorgeous gown; a gorgeous sunset.
2. Informal. extremely good, enjoyable, or pleasant: I had a gorgeous time.
1. rich, superb, grand; brilliant, resplendent, glittering, dazzling. See magnificent.
1. poor, plain.
Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 May. 2014.
mid·dling [mid-ling] adjective
1. medium, moderate, or average in size, quantity, or quality: The returns on such a large investment may be only middling.
2. mediocre; ordinary; commonplace; pedestrian: The restaurant’s entrées are no better than middling.
3. Older Use. in fairly good health.
Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 May. 2014.

Looking back at the books I read in the last few years as I have really starting keeping track, I would say that most of them have middling character development as I have very few five star reviews records in GoodReads. Perhaps for me five stars are reserved for the beautifully written novels with superb character development. What keeps me engaged in a story is rich writing. The author giving me just enough to turn the next page and follow the carefully plotted breadcrumbs so I come to the same conclusion as my favorite character(s) at the very same moment so I can share that experience with them.

And perhaps, for me, middling characters are more relatable. Middling characters are me, my friends and my family. I can see myself in Middle Earth or Westeros or Narnia struggling along side Frodo and Arya and Lucy for all that is right in the world. Middling characters have room to grow after the story is done. They are not quite perfect. Middling characters have potential to perform extraordinary deeds as deemed necessary by the plot, but in the end, they are ordinary just like me. And it my admiration of their deeds that makes them resplendent and raises them to intrepid heroes (or brilliant villains*) in my mind’s eye.

This, of course, is all subjective and in the eye of the beholder. What I view a gorgeous writing another person may see as lousy writing. What another views as great characters, I may see as middling. As bloggers, our responsibility is to define and explain what it is about a book that makes us connect (or not connect). It’s more than “I didn’t like it.” or “I loved it.” It’s all about the why. And as consumers and active participants in the Internet Culture, we have to open our minds and be accepting of those differences. It’s tough sometimes, but an open dialogue about our likes and dislikes brings us a greater understanding of ourselves and each other. In the end, I believe, that the true purpose of reading. To discover what’s inside ourselves and others, grasp that understanding and then having the ability to go out into the world and shout out our discoveries from the mountaintops.

How about you? Which do you prefer?

*Amy in Gone Girl, anyone? How about Voldemort/Tom Riddle in Harry Potter?