Kernels of Nonsense, #34: Can Characters Be Bigger Than Their Creators?

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I tackle various book and blogging related topics. I had to skip this feature earlier this month because I didn’t have time to get to it, but this topic has been bouncing around in my brain for a while and is finally demanding I give it proper attention.

The first time I started questioning whether an author could be wrong about their own character is when J.K. Rowling and Emma Watson had a joint discussion early last year where they both indicated that Harry was more compatible with Hermione and questioned whether Ron could make Hermione happy. You can read the interview here if you want it in full context. My immediate reaction was defensive because Ron has always been one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. I’ve always felt he was highly underrated and really got the short end of the stick in the movies. And to be perfectly honest, I happen to think J.K. Rowling is wrong, which brings up the following questions:

Can a character be bigger than their creator? Can an author be distracted or influenced by different story lines or a movie’s portrayal of their work and forget who their characters are? Are an author’s thoughts about his or her characters the finally word? Can you argue that readers sometimes know better than the authors when it comes to certain characters?

The Harry Potter series is arguably the most popular fictional books in history. Everybody knows HP even if they’ve never read or seen the movies. This fantasy series has had a profound effect on readers around the world (this one included). I’m convinced that in fifty years, Harry Potter will continue to influence young readers. For all these reason, I believe the series has become greater than its creator. I’m one of those readers who chooses not to read those interviews with J.K. Rowling where she drops a bombshell about certain characters. Once upon a time I might have craved these little tidbits of information, but now I feel that these revelations can sometimes spoil the way I feel about certain characters, or I feel there isn’t any real reason to “reveal” these things if Rowling never found it pertinent to do so in the seven books she wrote. I respect her right to say what she wants about the series she created, but I also have the right to respectfully turn the other way when she does.

Recently, I read a book in a series and found it difficult to swallow how the author portrayed a certain character because it was incongruent with their previous behavior and personality. I’ve gone from accepting that this is how the author would like to write this character from now on and it’s not for me to say differently to being extremely upset that this character (who happens to be a favorite of mine) was butchered and cast aside, not because their arc called for it but because the author would rather focus on a different character instead! I won’t say who I’m talking about or what series they are from because of spoilers, but if you are super curious, feel free to DM on Twitter and I’ll let you know to whom I am referring.

It’s hard to know whether or not I’m overreacting. I know some people believe that an author has absolute authority over their creations and I, as a reader, must accept how they choose to depict certain characters as an accurate account of who these characters are. Logically this makes perfect sense (maybe), but the emotional part of me, the part of me that feels too much for fictional characters says that if you write a character correctly their personalities will at the very least be consistent throughout the book or series and if you choose to explore a different route, you should actually take the time to tell their story rather than play puppet master. And after all, authors are only human, they can make mistakes, be influenced by outside (or inside) forces and fumble occasionally when it comes to their characters. And maybe, just maybe, in cases like these readers sometimes know these characters better than the authors.

I also understand that this may be opening a can of worms. If an author isn’t allowed to write their characters the way they want to without being criticized by their readers for everything they deem “out of character”, then what is the point of them writing at all? Then again, as a reader and especially as a blogger, we are supposed to look at books critically. Just because we didn’t write the novel, doesn’t mean we aren’t entitled to our own opinions.

What do you think? Do you believe an author has complete authority or can characters become bigger than their creators? What do you do when you don’t like the way an author writes one of your favorite characters? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Kernels of Nonsense, #28: Discontinuing a Series

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly feature where I discuss various book-related topics. This week I want to discuss discontinuing a series and the reasons behind it.

Last week in Bookish Indecisions, #2: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I asked for bloggers’ and readers’ opinions on the book to help me decide whether or not I should read it. What I found interesting was that several people responded that they had read and enjoyed the first book, but for whatever reason did not continue with the series. This had me thinking about series that I myself have failed to continue.

Are you the type of person who consciously pulls the plug on reading a series or are you the kind that does it without meaning to? I think I’m a little of both. I’m also not the type of person who feels obligated to finish a series if I start one, which makes my list of series I haven’t continued rather long. Whoops.

Now, I’m not talking about the books you didn’t enjoy, the ones you rated one or two stars, I’m talking about the ones that you really liked and had every intention of continuing. You may even had read the second book in the series, but failed to finish it or found yourself less than enthusiastic about the sophomore installment. For me, if I rate a book four-stars, it’s a series that I want to continue. There are also some three-star books that may not have impressed me too much, but were interesting enough that I will at least pick up the second book.

There are several trilogies that I can name off the top of my head that I haven’t finished and have no intention of doing so. Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone are two very popular books I enjoyed at the time I read them and both received four-stars from me (because I read them before I started blogging, I don’t have reviews that I can look back on to remind me why I liked them). However, in both cases I’ve picked up the second book with the intention of continuing the series, but found I had lost interest.

I think one of the reasons I’ve found it so easy to move on from these two series is the fact that I don’t recall either first book very well and therefore didn’t feel invested in the characters by the time I picked up the second book. This is one of the disadvantages to having to wait a year between releases: while I might enjoy a book, it’s not necessarily a guarantee that I’ll be committed a year later (please note that this is not a reflection of my personal life, ha!). So this wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision on my part, just an unfortunate result of circumstances.

Sometimes other books come along that end up impressing me more, so I don’t feel the need to continue these other series. Either I look back on these books and realize they were not as good as I first thought or I come across a series I enjoy more and feel no reason to revisit these former ones. Yes, sometimes bookworms can be fickle little beasts.

I still believe certain books are worthy of the four-stars I’ve given them, but I may never continue the series because of a combination of disinterest and bad reviews. Suzanne Young’s The Program is one of those books I really liked, but when it came time to pick up the sequel, The Treatment, I found I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened next and the fact that this book wasn’t well-received by several bloggers convinced me I had no reason to read it.

And then there are the books I enjoy, but after finishing them, my mind begins to dwell on certain problematic issues, which makes it very unlikely that I’ll reach for the sequel. I gave Kathleen Peacock’s Hemlock five-stars and had been craving the sequel ever since I put the first book down. Unfortunately, the second book, Thornhill, managed to revive a love triangle I thought had been resolved in the first book (and one I never really bought into), which now makes me hesitant to pick up the final book in the trilogy. Do I really want to spend time reading about a love triangle I hate?

Love triangles seem to be my Achilles heel, because one of the reasons I haven’t been as excited as I should be about picking up the second book in Mary E. Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles is because I know that the love triangle (one that once again should have been resolved in the first book) is going to rear its ugly head. I just can’t handle a protagonist who can’t decide what she wants. I realize this may be my own character flaw, but it’s one of those things that grates on my nerves and my tolerance for which has gone from lenient to basically nonexistent.

Have there been any series you stopped reading? What were the reasons behind your decision? Are there any particular tropes that have you putting a series down? Do you feel obligated to read an entire series once you start? Are there any first books you’ve rate high, but you haven’t continued the series because you lost interest? Share you thoughts in comments!