Friday, February 17, 2012
Likeability and the Downton Daughters
Sure, we all wish to have a little "icily beautiful" Mary running through our veins--the quintessential eldest child: giving off a cocky self-assurance -- but, what a price to pay with all of that moral turbulence and disappointment festering beneath the surface.
And, wouldn't we all love to be Lady Sybil, the young upstart who marches to her own beat with courage and tenacity? Ah--the blessings for the family baby. So much easier to sneak about when one's parents are utterly burned out with exhaustion.
But, alas, there is a bit of Edith in all of us, is there not? The passed-over middle child. The wallflower. The simpering, late bloomer.
If you have not yet seen this Downton Abbey likeability scale, get in step posthaste! It changes from week to week, though many characters seem to retain their degree of likeability across the board.
These final drafts of my novels, if I had to isolate one big change, it was to turn my Ediths into Marys and Sybils. The process was a bit like being sober at a cocktail party full of drunks. Audacity and outrageousness are not second nature to my writing sensibilities, but, as witnessed by the Downton Abbey character scale, nobody wants to spend time with a sad sac. A breathtakingly gorgeous drama queen, yes. A Violet-type Dowager, absolutely! And look at the popularity of Anna the housemaid! The willful-yet-virtuous head maid has all but stolen the main storyline.
I won't say that I've completely succeeded in creating the ultimate likeable, memorable character, but I've learned how to push my Edith out into the crowd, force her to peel a canape off a tray without soiling her gown, and even capture the eye of leading man or two.
So, Dear Readers, where are you in the Grantham-Crawley character sphere? And writers, any of you willing to share your own trials, tribulations and character travails in pursuit of fiction worthy of dinner at the Grantham table?