Characters I love to hate


Back deep in the narrative guts of ‘A falling of Angels’ at present. In order to add another layer, I’ve decided to expand the role of my mind reading detective characters current girlfriend. Because he’s made a nuisance of himself with the powers that be (as usual), he’s been suspended for a month this time, and since she has lost her job, they’ve gone on holiday together. While on holiday, and in response to exposing another clue about his past, his girlfriend demonstrates practical surveillance busting skills which solve several issues. Nothing out of character, rather using her known skill set to best advantage. Flirting with a sales assistant to distract, using her initiative.

In the days when I used to watch Doctor Who, the characters who used to annoy me most were the Doctors ‘Assistants’ who would, at a story critical juncture, scream, break a heel, get captured by the monster and be generally about as much use as a chocolate kettle. Just so the Doctor can leap into the Tardis and save them. The other kind were the über feminists who were oh so much better than everyone else. If you’re going to have a useful female character with a life longer than a single episode, you’ve got to flesh them out a bit. Let them kick a Cyberman so hard his batteries fall off, be smart enough to blind a Dalek by sticking masking tape over its silly monocular eyepiece, vent a villain out of the airlock occasionally without needing the Doctors sonic screwdriver sort of thing. A bit more than just a victim, but not so much they take over the show. In Doctor Who, my particular favourite remains (Predictably) Louise Jameson as Leela during Tom Baker’s sojourn as the Doctor.

It’s what I hate about teen slasher movies. The helpless cheerleader stereotype who you know is going to get killed in the first few minutes because she can’t do anything but totter along on four inch heels and scream for help as the implausibly dressed villain stalks after her. Female (and male) characters need depth to be credible, otherwise they’re just yawn worthy. They have to be able to spring surprises now and again. Display hidden strengths. Not too many, and always in line with what we understand about them as people. Human enough to be fallible, but not so infallible as to lose their humanity. That’s what keeps me awake through a movie or book. By the same token, stereotypes induce almost instant somnolence.

Ergo; Marcy, who first appears as Paul Calvin’s slightly slutty waitress girlfriend from ‘Head of the beast’ develops into a better defined character in ‘A falling of Angels’. She does things only she could do for reasons which matter to her, and in addition we learn facts about her designed to make a male reader nod with respect, and a female reader identify with. Both have to do with her family. Layers upon layers, a personality built up as she (and he) drive the story forward. It’s added over eight thousand words to the MSS over the past three days, and they all stand up to scrutiny. Another twenty thousand words or so and I’ll have finished this particular volume in the series. Yippee.

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Martyn K Jones

A writer who first trained as an Electrical Engineer, then fulfilled various roles within the computing industry. First published in 'SuperBike' magazine, 1978 under the pseudonym Harry Matthews. Since then has written and had published a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist.

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