Will the Reader Hate Me?

by Arianna

Question: I've heard a lot of readers complaining lately about young adult novels wherein the main character's life changes when she meets a boy. And I understand.

My own manuscript has a main character, Tyla, who struggles with emotional and mental disorders while trying to solve her problems on her own. She's stubborn, strong-willed, and cynical, and very independent.

And, like the stereotype, she meets a boy in the emergency room one day, and he changes everything.

I tried to avoid this stereotype by pulling plot twists here and there and allowing her to grow more individually. I don't want her to rely on Ethan (the boy) too much and even at the climax, it's her who saves BOTH of their lives.

I was wondering if this will anger my readers...

What do you think?

Answer: It's not just teen girl protagonists who this happens to. Male and female main characters of all ages frequently change due to the influence of a character who comes into their life. This character is called, in dramatica, the impact character (or sometimes the influence character, or the obstacle character).

The impact character is actually an essential part of a complete story. However, the impact character is not always the love interest. (Though there are reasons why he/she frequently is. More on this in a second.)

Sometimes the impact character is the villain. Sometimes it is the hero's mentor. Any character can play this role. The essential thing is that the impact character must have an approach to life and to problem solving that is the opposite of the main character's. Observing the impact character is what creates internal conflict for the main character. The MC must then wonder, "Whose approach is the right way to achieve the story goal: mine or the other person's?"

This dilemma leads to the main character's choice at the climax of whether to stick with her own approach or change and adopt the impact character's approach.

Now, there are two reasons why the romantic lead is often the
impact character:

1. If the impact character is NOT the villain, the main character can choose to change and win. Otherwise, deciding to change would mean becoming like the bad guy.

2. There are two types of brains, according to dramatica. Male brains tend to be linear thinkers. Female brains tend to be holistic thinkers. (Sometimes it's the opposite. There's no sexism here.) It's easier for a linear thinker to be the impact character to a holistic main character, or vice versa, because it means these two characters naturally think in different ways, see things differently, and take different approaches.

A linear thinker and a holistic thinker can work together as a partnership because each can contribute insights the other lacks. Add a little sexual attraction to this great partnership and you have the makings of a romance.

Now, if you don't like the stereotypical girl who changes because she falls in love, bear in mind that the impact character's approach is not always right. Sometimes the impact character is the one who needs to change and adopt the main character's approach in order for the goal to be met (in which case the main character remains steadfast).

Also, some characters are be-ers and some are do-ers. Be-ers try to solve problems by changing themselves to fit in with their environment and other people. Do-ers try to solve problems by getting other people to change or changing something in the environment.

Neither of these approaches is better, but for some reason our culture often sees do-ers as stronger.

The stereotype used to be that female heroines tended to be be-ers and male heroes tended to be do-ers. This is no longer true. So you are free to make your heroine a do-er, and thus make her look stronger. (You can also make your male character a be-er. Again, these are stereotypes not determined by biology.)

Finally, I don't think you should worry if your main character's life changes in the story. If it didn't, it wouldn't be much of a story.

Comments for Will the Reader Hate Me?

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Jan 24, 2014
by: Arianna

Thank you so much!! This is incredibly helpful.

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