‘Twas a perfect day. A really good music was playing on my earbuds. The perfect music for walking on the sidewalk like they do in movies. My I-don’t-care-about-the-world-I’m-like-in-a-movie expression was on. My hair was being carried by the wind in that perfect flippy way.
And then I slipped.
In front of some group of guys.
I mean, sure, I was too busy in my movie moment to notice if any of the guys was good-looking. But man, it was still embarrassing. And worse so, in my perspective, I could imagine the phonograph needle scratching on the vinyl records. If I had a guardian angel, he/she would have been laughing at me back then.
I know all of you have also experienced trivial fails at least ten times in your life. So don’t deny it.
Now literary characters, on the other hand, they’re so perfect, it’s bananas.
Have you ever read about a main character who ran away from an argument and tripped along the way? A character who experienced fails not because it’s part of the plot or any dramatic effects, but simply for the sheer consequence of being part of the complete randomness of life? (And that the universe and fate wanna be entertained and they chose you of all people today to make them laugh.)
Back when I was in high school, I got this really awesome fantasy heroine in mind. Her name is Allison Sparks and, to me, she was a rockstar. Still is. But when my friends learned about her, one opinion of theirs prevailed in my mind until now, “She was too perfect.” She needed to have flaws, imperfections that makes her human. Otherwise, she’s too far-fetched and unrelatable.
And I realize, now as I got older, that there are characters in novels that are just that.
When I said that characters in books are perfect, I don’t just mean the golden boys and girls. The nerds are the perfect nerds: kinda awkward, witty, and a friggin’ champion in Mathletes. The rebels are the perfect rebels with their bravado and nonconforming coolness. The bad boys are the perfect bad boys with their brooding attitude and, sigh, secret soft side…
You get my point?
Another thing that relates quite well with perfection is the spontaneity of novels. I’m talking about Contemporary Teen Fiction here, in particular. It’s so overwhelming.
The things these teen kids do to “live while they’re young” aren’t something I would even thought of doing. The only time that I was able to loosen up was when our class decided to go all Gossip Girl.
The end of story? Some of my friends end up talking to the guidance counselor along with a complaining party. Oh, and we garnered some amazingly unbelievable reputation.
Meanwhile, the level of spontaneity that teen fiction novels have range from long car rides (Paper Towns) to blowing up buildings (literally every Rick Riordan modern mythology series). Maybe it’s just me, but kids hardly get to be given that freedom, don’t they?
Here where I’m from, it’s no surprise if an eighteen-year-old is still dependent on their parents. There are even adults who still are!
So why are perfect characters and perfect spontaneous moments always present in books?
Here’s my theory: people often don’t get to do these things themselves so reading about someone perfect doing perfect spontaneous things appeals to people. And because of reading these things, they want to be like that. And because they want to be like that, they read these things. It’s an endless loop of our wants for perfection and perfect spontaneity.
Having said that, an element of fiction is always needed in a book. But that’s never the huge problem of literature. It is how they balance out realism with that ounce of fiction that oftentimes ruins a good scene or, worse, a good book. And while I’ve read many a novel that have perfect characters and unbelievable levels of spontaneity, I haven’t seen any story that fell out because of it. Let’s hope that won’t happen.
YOUR TURN! What do you think of how perfect some characters are in books? Can you name some titles or characters that have such perfection? Is spontaneity in novels sometimes too over-the-top? Let’s discuss!