Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When You Hate The Hero

What is a writer supposed to do about a review blasting a character's--well, character? It is certainly a dilemma at times to figure it out if you are looking to reviews as a indicator of reader contentment with your work.

First, the writer should probably ask if the comment is fair about the character. So in the case of Dating A Cougar, I had to ask questions like "Is Casey sexist?" The answer is "Yes", or at least he has sexist moments. Is he controlling? Yes, he could be seen that way. Many military men are prone to wanting to control everything and everyone in their environment. It's part of their training and a trait that seems to carry over into the rest of their life. Most get a handle on it, but some of it always remains in their character I think.

Also, I think a writer should look at other more positive reviews of the same character. Compare them and consider that it might just have been that one person or those two people who felt the way they did.

My writer dilemma in dealing with negative reviews about Casey in Dating A Cougar is that I intentionally wrote him to be exactly who he was in that book. As a writer, I couldn't have made a Marine less a Marine for the sake of making Casey less offensive to some female readers. What would be the point of downplaying his personality or the eighteen year military career I gave him? The whole point of matching a less-than-perfect, but extremely strong alpha hero with an equally  strong alpha heroine who thinks she doesn't need to change is to enjoy the two of them wrestling for compromise.

So how can I respond with any writer action to satisfy a reviewer who comments about not liking my hero? Well, I can't, or I guess I should say in the instance of my hero Casey at least--I won't. My characters are vetted by beta readers before I publish which helps me achieve a modest amount of assurance they are likeable. However, you can't please everybody and that means your characters won't be able to do it either.

Before I published my writing, one of the lessons parenting three children taught me is that sometimes you have to refuse something to a person you deeply care about for a higher purpose. During a particularly fierce argument about why she was not being allowed to do something, my oldest daughter as a teenager yelled "I hate you" to me. I was caught off-guard by the directness and sincerity of her comment at the time, but knew as her parent I was right to set that particular limitation for the greater good of both of us and our family. Having been trained at the Bill Cosby Show school of parenting, I pushed the blubbering mother emotions aside and yelled back "Good! That means I'm doing my job."

I think that's how I feel about the negative reviews of Casey in Dating A Cougar. A reader can be disappointed, and I have to accept that it's okay for that person to just not like the hero if they say they don't. Really in response, the only thing I can reasonably say is thanks to authors of the negative reviews commenting on Casey being the kind of man I meant him to be in the story. I can only say thanks for letting me know I did my job.
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