Apr 24, 2012

V is for: Vicious


I queried a novel a year ago that was a huge FAIL. There were a number of reasons for this - a bad query letter, an over-used concept, first pages that never got critiqued like they should have. (I even hired a professional editor and paid an embarrassing amount of money to get my query package critiqued. Total noob mistake.)

I recently re-read this MS to discover the biggest reason of all for the fail: my MC's Mean Girl potential. In this scene, she's able to manipulate everyone around her to do something pretty vicious. (Just to set the scene, Brecken has just had a fight with Tina, her best friend, about Tina's boyfriend Peter.) 

Brecken pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. She looked more sad than mad. I frowned.
“I have a feeling,” I said carefully, “that Tina is wrong about Peter.”
“How?” my friends asked. Brecken just looked at me. Her thoughts, usually bright purple, were dimmed tonight.
“Tina thinks he loves her for who she is, right? Well, what if her look changed?”
“How?” Kaylee asked again but Chrystal narrowed her eyes. I thought of eyelashes, Tina’s long, curling lashes. An identical evil smile curled their lips.
“Not permanently, of course,” I continued, moving my gaze to Brecken’s. 
“Something small but huge,” Chrystal murmured. She leaned over to whisper in Brecken’s ear.
“Just a little trim,” I heard Chrystal say right before the screaming started again. Teens were getting slaughtered left and right on TV.
 Brecken went still and the color in her mind was exactly half grey, half purple. She needed a little push so I leaned forward.
            “It’ll be for her good,” I pointed out. “Both her and Peter. It’ll solidify their love…or not. Isn’t it better for her to find out now that he's shallow? If he fails this test and dumps her, you’ll stand by her. You’ll be such a good friend that she won’t ever drop you for a guy. Not after this. Not ever again.”
“You’ll actually be helping her,” Chrystal said.
Kaylee fumbled in her overnight bag and came up with a tiny pair of scissors. She held them in one palm so Brecken could see.
“Wait until everyone is asleep,” Kaylee said. “We’ll help you.”
“We promise,” I said.
“Snip, snip,” said Chrystal.

So...vicious. It drives the tension, makes us wince or gasp, throws our allegiances one way or another. But it's generally a behavior reserved for the baddies. Are there any stories out there where an MC can be vicious without losing your sympathy?

10 comments:

DW96 said...

If you ever solve the equation, let me know. I've been trying for years to create a thoroughly nasty character wh can generate and maintain the reader's symapthy. I'm sure it can be done, but I don't know how.

Great post.

T. Drecker said...

That's a problem. It kind of reminds me of Anna Karinina from Tolstoi. He fought to make his MC (Anna) likeable at a time where her actions were totally socially unacceptable - and still have the reader sympathize with her. Somehow he managed to pull it off -
but Anna was nice ;)

T. Drecker said...

That's a problem. It kind of reminds me of Anna Karinina from Tolstoi. He fought to make his MC (Anna) likeable at a time where her actions were totally socially unacceptable - and still have the reader sympathize with her. Somehow he managed to pull it off -
but Anna was nice ;)

Cynthia said...

I've read books where MCs aren't likeable (a lot of them are adult fiction though, not kidlit/YA) but I would continue reading if the story's plot draws me in or if there's some hint that the MC would go through some transformation later in the story.

Francene Stanley said...

Vicious isn't an emotion I usually explore. You do it well. Blog on!

http://francene-wordstitcher.blogspot.com

Karen Walker said...

Hmm, can't think of any offhand.
karen

elizabeth seckman said...

I haven't tried viciousness for anyone but the antagonist yet. But doing so would make much more rounded characters.

Lynn Proctor said...

scarlett o'hara comes to mind

Nancy Thompson said...

My MC was vicious a few times, but as retaliation, and he was mistaken, hence the title. Then he makes up for it. So I guess it all depends.

Carrie Butler said...

Funny that I should comment right after Nancy. She was my example! :)